Imagine a technique that begins with one simple movement and transforms every muscle in your entire body... a technique so easy you can learn it yourself.. .and so amazingly effective that your whole life may change for the better.
"The Alexander Technique
Nobel Prize-winner Nikolaas Tinbergen hailed the discovery of the. technique. With "growing amazement" he and his family noted "very striking improvements" in high blood pressure, depth of sleep, overall cheerfulness and mental alertness. Tinbergen concluded that the technique may often produce "profound and beneficial effects" to help: relieve rheumatism, various forms of arthritis and respiratory ailments • remedy circulation defects that may lead to high blood pressure • alleviate many digestive disorders • reduce sexual failures, migraines and depression. Now you can learn the secrets of this unique, effortless technique and begin to realize your full physical and mental potential, starting today.
"Like opening a door into another world..."
One of our foremost teachers and practitioners of the Alexander Technique, Sarah Barker, has taught this amazingly effective method of mobilizing total energy in colleges across the country. From her own experience she has found that "the mere performance of this simple movement can, if you extend it through the whole range of your normal activity, put you on the road to a new life of health, physical freedom and, in the deepest sense, personal happiness." Try the technique yourself for a few weeks with her simple, everyday routines and see what wonders it can do for you.
THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE
The Revolutionary Way To Use Your Body For Total Energy by Sarah Barker
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THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE: THE REVOLUTIONARY WAY TO USE YOUR BODY FOR TOTAL ENERGY
A Bantam Book /August 1978 April 1979 3rd printing
Photographs courtesy of Susan and Reed ErskinelLightworks All rights reserved. consisting of the words "Bantam Books" and the portrayal of a bantam. Inc.
Acknowledgments PART I LEARNING ABOUT THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE: The Important Benefits It Offers You THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE The What and the Why Scientific Acclaim Feeling at Your Best Age Is No Barrier If You Are Overweight Your Rampant Emotions Living Without Stress Being Who You Are Beneficial Effects in Many Diseases A Simple Method
l 2 2 3 3 4 4 5 6 6 8
Chapter 2 HOW THE TECHNIQUE WAS DISCOVERED
The Australian Story Crisis on Stage The Patient Scientist A Unique Mission The Search and the Answer Outwitting Our Destructive Habits Those Puritanical Hang-Ups
10 11 12 13 13 15 15
No Poses How to Look at Pictures The Breath of Life Let It Happen Your Breathing Improves How We Got This Way Three Easy Tests See For Yourself The Road to Take THE BASIC MOVEMENT Not an Exercise How to Start THE BASIC MOVEMENT Exploring Yourself The Basic Movement Your Whole Head Your Whole Body The Upward Direction On Your Way The Instant Train How to Succeed Without Really Trying
17 18 19 20 20 20 21 21 22 23 23 24 25 25 26 26 26 27 27 32 32 32 34 35 37 37 38 39 39 41 41 42
BECOME A WHOLE PERSON The Trouble with Physical Exercise The Trance in Which We Live Our Mistaken Ideas About Ourselves The Crown of the Senses Discover a World Within Part Person vs. Whole Person Staying in the Moment
BRINGING THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE INTO YOUR LIFE What Is Good Use? You Are Not a Statue No Positions.
No Leotards A Way to Begin For Your Enjoyment Nine Rules to Follow
43 44 44 45 46 47 49 49
51 52 52 52 53 54 54 56 56 56 57 58 58 59 61 61 61 62 63 65 66
LEANING FORWARD A N D BACKWARD Exploring Yourself Applying the Basic Movement Applications to Daily Life Eating Soup How to Get Out of a Slump The Way You Talk MOVING ARMS Exploring Yourself Applying the Basic Movement Applications to Daily Life Brushing Your Teeth Opening a Door With Children
THE TECHNIQUE AS A WAY TO STAY YOUNG Why We Shrink The Upright Creature Must We Fall Apart? How We Conquer It Goes by Itself Never a Feeling of Strain A Future Without Fear THE PRACTICE OF THE TECHNIQUE How to Do It THE SEVEN ACTIONS An Effortless Program No Dumb-Bells.
WALKING WITH EASE Exploring Yourself Applying the Basic Movement Applications to Daily Life Jogging and Running Playing Golf MOVING LEGS Exploring Yourself Applying the Basic Movement Applications to Daily Life Walking Up and Down Stairs HEEL A N D TOE Exploring Yourself Applying the Basic Movement Applications to Daily Life KNEE-BENDING Exploring Yourself Applying the Basic Movement Applications to Daily Life STANDING UP A N D SITTING D O W N Exploring Yourself Applying the Basic Movement Applications to Daily Life A SHORT DAILY ROUTINE A Time For Rest Rotating Your Head Moving Your Arms Moving Your Legs Rolling onto Your Side Sitting Up
68 68 68 72 72 73 76 76 76 80 80 82 82 82 84 86 86 86 88 90 90 90 96 97 97 100 100 102 103 103
Anger.Restful Slumber Emotional ControlWorry. Panic
SOME HELPFUL HINTS
The Worrier The Straining Housewife The Thinker The Scientist The Manipulator The Under-Achiever The Step-by-Stepper The Freezer The Over-Achiever The Practicer The Posture-Maker The Weight-Watcher
107 108 109 109 109 109 110 110 111 111 112 112
who were always available for the encouragement and energy needed to carry on. benefited from the teaching experiments I conducted in the preparation of this book. and all my students. Then I remembered that its originator. if given a set of sure guidelines. My colleague. of Oxford University. especially those who patiently suffered and. I am also indebted to several distinguished scholars in the field. which places the Alexander Technique in a modern scixi
. I thought long and hard: The idea of learning the Technique from a book seemed revolutionary and possibly heretical. upon whose work I have drawn freely. and thanks are also due to a number of close friends.Acknowledgments
Before undertaking to write a "how to" book on the Alexander Technique. F M. I received the help of innumerable people to whom I am most grateful. hopefully. who supported me with their probing questions. the rest of us. Surely. and whose individual help in some cases was indispensable to me. When I began the necessary exploring and investigation. I would like to thank the various Alexander teachers with whom I have studied and spent long hours in discussion. I am grateful to Professor Nikolaas Tinbergen. graciously and expertly collaborated with me in demonstrating for the photographs that illustrate this book. had on his own discovered how to control the use of his body. Special acknowledgment is due my colleagues and associates at Rancho Linda Vista in Arizona. Alexander. Peter Trimmer. even lacking his genius. for his remarkable speech accepting the 1973 Nobel Prize in Medicine. could learn how.
Research Associate at the Tufts Institute for Psychological Research. who laid down the guidelines for those of us who have followed him. to Professor Raymond A. Wilfred Barlow for his informative accounts of the medical use of the Technique in treating patients.entific perspective. Frank Pierce
Jones. to Edward Maisel. to Dr. Of course. whose study introducing The Resurrection of the Body (Delta Books). to the late Dr. an indispensable selection of Alexanders writings. South Africa. closely paraphrased a few passages from that study. I have. The project is entirely my own. for the insights in his
Anatomist's Tribute to F. Matthias Alexander. Sarah Barker
. with Maisel's generous permission. the greatest debt of all is to Alexander himself. has contributed so greatly to public appreciation of the Alexander Technique. Dart. This book is not intended to reflect the views of any of the considerable number of people who helped me. whose studies of the Alexander Technique have accomplished much for the scientific understanding of this work. Professor Emeritus of Anatomy and Dean Emeritus of the Medical Faculty of the University of Witwatersrand. In a couple of spots.
Learning About the Alexander Technique The Important Benefits It Offers You
a technique so amazing in its results that your physical and emotional life will soon change for the better. reports by physicians attesting to its remarkable effectiveness in helping many of their patients. and known around the world as one of the most extraordinary discoveries of our time.
. During the years before and after Alexander's death in 1955. like the opening of a door into another world. Matthias Alexander. That technique is the Alexander Technique. F. his students and followers conducted a considerable amount of research to substantiate his findings.
It would surprise many people to realize what the Alexander Technique can do for them were its astonishing'results not supported by the most respectable scientific authority. named for its discoverer. At the Tufts Institute for Experimental Psychology. so simple that you can learn it yourself.Chapter 1 The Alexander Technique: The What and the Why
Imagine a technique for transforming the operation of your body. twenty-five years of investigation—using quantitative measure and control groups—have thrown important light on the manner in which the Alexander Technique produces its seemingly miraculous effects. There has also accumulated an impressive volume of clinical data.
computerized or laser-beamed—that functions with such infinite resilience or so many delicate capacities as the human body." Good health is regarded as merely the absence of sickness. an exuberant and vital sense of wellness: physical freedom and ease combined with mental flexibility and alertness. We "manage". Indeed. and that today.
Age Is No Barrier
If you think you're too old to begin learning anything so revolutionary. more than ever. one of the founding fathers of scientific philosophy and modern education. took up the Alexander Technique at the age of fifty-eight. humanity's chance to survive may depend upon how men and women salvage themselves. Ours is an era where people have begun to value their bodies as unique and wonderful. you can begin to make a beneficial and healthy change. Many of us know now that through ignorance and insensibility we unnecessarily limit ourselves in how we function. this factor may prove more critical than our ability to manipulate the environment further. most of us plod through our days and nights in a condition far below optimum. you're wrong. we "get by. as normal. full THE WHAT AND THE WHY 3
. Against this keep-your-nose-above-water-level definition of being alive. so too are we daily abusing the most valuable resource of all—our bodies—and depleting our own energies. the Alexander Technique proposes. It's never too late. He thereupon underwent an extraordinary rejuvenation and lived another thirty-five rich. John Dewey. Just as we have thoughtlessly depleted the natural resources of the planet. We have learned that there is no mechanical device in the world—electronic. Even after forty or fifty years of continually misusing yourself.Feeling at Your Best
Apart from suffering any specific medical symptoms. We scarcely begin to realize our enormous potential.
you can often change his entire attitude to life and cure his neurotic tendencies. The famous writer had spent all his days in a state of acute physical illness until he studied the Alexander Technique and transformed himself.
If You Are Overweight
You can even streamline your physical appearance by means of the Alexander Technique. prejudices and fixed habits. which determines success in attaining a beautifully proportionate body. George Bernard Shaw learned the Technique at eighty and lived to ninety-four.years. Something crucial is missing from our national quest for a more attractive physique. exercise and strenuous exertion. He had begun to withdraw from people. and he was beset by a terrible 4 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE
. And we have information about calisthenics. whatever it may be? Why is it that two people of identical poundage and the same general build often have quite different looking torsos. the other a nondescript but thickening bulge? A beneficial side effect of the Alexander Technique is a better carriage of the body's weight. and it is hardly news that human development in general is retarded by fear reflexes unduly excited by emotions. The ninety-two-year-old Dewey attributed this vital longevity to his Alexander practice. We have sufficient data on calories. What about the way we wear our weight. finding his physical and mental energies too drained by social contact. one possessing a true waist and chest. What many authorities therefore find most impressive about the Alexander Technique is embodied in Aldous Huxley's statement that "If you teach an individual to be aware of his physical organism and then to use it as it was meant to be used. But little or nothing is ever mentioned about another important factor. diets and the dangers of eating too much." Huxley might have given his own story as a case in point.
Your Rampant Emotions
All of us are subject to "states" of various kinds.
you may find yourself making fidgety movements. There is likewise an improvement in our self-image when we feel more competent physically. anger. and we are no longer simply at the mercy of confusion. reported in other therapies as well. But quite apart from these desirable side effects.
Living Without Stress
We can see how this works easily enough. observed that while the physical effects of the Technique are indeed remarkable. We tend to be less depressed when we are not physically burdened. We also discover how much more we like other people when we have a more relaxed feeling about ourselves.depression and a chronic insomnia that made it almost impossible to work. Or if you're anxious about something. the foremost scientific investigator among Alexander scholars. notice whether you clench your hands slightly or perhaps a great deal. panic." Some of these. he noted. Underneath are the unconscious tension states that can build into attitudes which interfere in our relationships with other people. for a change in mental attitude often accompanies an increase in health. THE WHAT AND THE WHY 5
. but it was the Alexander Technique that opened up a new way to live. yoga and other remedies in vain. worry. you may also hunch your shoulders and fix your chest rigidly. These are all surface reactions we can observe. Next time you're angry. He had tried gardening. Can the Technique really help with our mental and emotional problems? Professor Frank Pierce Jones. "the psychological effects are of greater importance." This is because the Alexander Technique gives a workable approach in attacking emotional problems directly. Jones observed in his own experience "an almost immediate increase in mental and emotional control. When angry. may of course be explained as the happy side effects of any betterment in physical condition.
there is no magic formula that will instantly solve their problems. If they turn to the Technique. Once you break this cycle of reinforcing feeling with body tension. or to shop from therapy to therapy. because you are no longer reinforcing them with body tension. and moving hopefully from one fad to another. hoping for some kind of emotional relief. you may even find that you no longer experience any disquiet—except perhaps to wonder where your rage or panic went. you may find your feelings much more within your control. Instead. This new conscious control of yourself does not prevent you from feeling any emotional states—life would be rather stiff and boring if it did—but you will be able to allow for more appropriate and spontaneous responses to the events of your life if you are not locked into one fearful or angry response for all occasions.
Beneficial Effects in Many Diseases
Many people would find it hard to believe the seemingly fantastic medical cures attributed to the Alexander Technique except that these extraordinary reports come from reputable physicians and scientists.When you release those clenched fists. Professor Nikolaas Tinbergen. upon receiving the Nobel Prize for Medicine.
Being Who You Are
The Alexander Technique has particular value for people who don't want to fill themselves with drugs. countering their depressions and anxieties with a whole arsenal of tranquilizers. or prevent the fidgeting. He related how his interest in it 6 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE
. devoted half his acceptance speech to the Technique. Millions of people exist in this half-alive state. by means of the Alexander Technique. Thus freed. you are able to experience emotions fully in a few moments and begin thinking clearly again. In 1973. they are offered a release from the confines of habit so that they have some choice in their lives and become capable of acting more freely in whatever they do.
Dr. They noted. Tinbergen concluded that while the Technique is assuredly no cure-all to be applied in every case. sexual failures. they observed "with growing amazement" the marvelous results. and also in such a refined skill as playing a stringed instrument. THE WHAT AND THE WHY 7
. for example. no such evaluation has thus far been carried out. The British Medical Journal once published a letter. respiratory ailments.He. including various forms of arthritis. he suggested. his wife and one of their daughters had learned the Technique at the same time. and reported that in this group there were no coronaries.was excited by a little experiment he had tried with his own family. both in the mental and somatic sphere. All these as well as other non-bug diseases. breathing. migraines and depressive states that often lead to suicide. and I repeat once more. Barlow called this statistic "almost unbelievable" and concluded that 99 percent of the population need the Technique. Wilfred Barlow. signed by nineteen doctors. endorsing the Technique for its remarkable effectiveness in the treatment of many of their patients. might be helped by the Alexander Technique. that the Technique brought about "very striking improvements in such diverse things as high blood pressure. and called upon their profession to recognize and evaluate it. Unfortunately. no neurological disorders and no severe mental disorder." A physician. "there can be no doubt that it often does have profound and beneficial effects. depth of sleep. no discs. even asthma." Tinbergen went on to affirm the possibility that certain other stress-related ailments could benefit from the Technique: rheumatism. which is a point that must be emphasized. circulation defects that may lead to high blood pressure and heart conditions. no strokes. no ulcers. conducted a survey of men and women who had long used the Alexander Technique. resilience against outside pressure. no rheumatoid arthritis. no cancers. gastrointestinal disorders of many types. As their body musculature began to function differently. overall cheerfulness and mental alertness.
Whether seated in a theater or standing waiting for a bus. actors—are making it an important part of their training program." In Part I. In the words of Professor Frank Jones. you may readily apply it. It provides a compass for navigating in whatever physical or mental perplexities you may find yourself. the continual wear you place upon yourself through bad muscular habits—only your own physician can advise you if the Alexander Technique is likely to help. Part II presents a systematic program of seven easy Actions that shows you how to expand the Basic Movement as the basis for improving the quality of all the activities of 8 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE
. dancers.Although there has accumulated an impressive volume of personal testimony. Highfashion magazines. This book will introduce you to the Alexander process of thinking and moving. or complicated by.
A Simple Method
People from all walks of life benefit from the Alexander Technique. If you have any ailment or illness—even one due to. the Alexander principle has been encapsulated in one very simple action called the Basic Movement (Chapter 4). New York and elsewhere find it accepted as a valuable resource in physiotherapy. Patients in medical institutes in London. there is no reason to delay the undertaking if a teacher is not available. like Vogue and Harper's Bazaar. Those that have a professional interest in their bodies—musicians. . A word of caution is therefore in order. It presents a simple method for learning the Technique by yourself. "Since the Alexander Technique is nothing more than the application of experimental method to problems of everyday behavior. have informed their readers of what the Technique will do for bodies that display expensive clothes. It offers a key for orienting yourself in all that you do. no thorough-going scientific investigation has been conducted into any of the medical claims that have been made for the Technique.
of intelligence and of persistence. we need to learn more about Alexander himself and how he made his great discovery. "is one of the true epics of medical research and practice. shown by a man without medical training." said Professor Tinbergen in his Nobel speech. and the Technique that derives from it.your everyday life. "This story of perceptiveness."
THE WHAT AND THE WHY 9
. To understand the Alexander principle. These Actions will facilitate this because they are invariably involved in almost everything you do. however.
that have been reached in total isolation from any ongoing tradition of study and research. Newton and Leibniz. an unusual woman who was close to the child during his formative 10
. no less significant for the welfare of the human race. But there are other turning points. This is certainly true of the way the Alexander Technique was discovered. the new proposition put forth appears to have sprung full-blown from the brain of its originator. we can see that it does indeed owe almost everything to the peculiar genius of that individual and to the special circumstances of his or her particular life. are said to have hit upon the powerful mathematical tool of calculus at about the same moment in history.
The Australian Story
Frederick Matthias Alexander came from a remote outpost of the Australian bush country.Chapter 2 How the Technique was Discovered
Many a major innovation in the history of science appears to have been lying there. And upon closer inspection. In this way. just waiting for the great person who discovered it. At first glance. Whatever influence he may have had on his son was far overshadowed by the boy's mother. acting independently of one another. Not much is known about his father except that he was poor and hard-working. He was born in 1869 on the island of Tasmania in a small town named Wynyard.
but family poverty demanded that the eldest son go out to work. From the beginning. when he began at six to practice the kind of recitations so popular in that day. so he took a job with the local tin mining company. for the theater had been his love since early childhood. tutored but not formally taught. she combined two of her talents. Thus. and sometimes in response to urgent calls. his schoolmaster. Alexander was already considered an accomplished reciter of Shakespeare. a Scot who had emigrated to Australia in an effort to repair his health. He would have liked to go on the stage. He seemed to have an innate distrust of accepted routine and conventional wisdom. By the time he was nineteen. refusing to accept anything on blind faith. Sometimes during recitals his voice failed him completely—disturbing enough for any actor! Doctors could HOW THE TECHNIQUE WAS DISCOVERED 11
. he decided to cast his lot with the theater as actor. Fortunately. recitalist or both.
Crisis on Stage
He could have become the teacher his tutor wanted him to be. Alexander was different from other children. however. saw that his difficult pupil was something more than the usual rebellious student. He persuaded Alexander's father to let him tutor the boy in the evenings. In this wild and remote part of the world. and it was this disability which proved to be the determining factor in his life.years. riding and midwifery (which included nursing and other medical services) to help her neighbors. she had been known to saddle her horse and leap it over the paddock gate so as not to lose time fooling with the latch. giving his recitals on numerous smalltown stages. trying to recoup his small fortune with odd jobs. finally. Alexander won prizes and passed examinations with ease. which was all the formal education the youngster received. and away from the mining company could consider himself legitimately to be a professional actor. Local doctors often called on her. He worked under a handicap. In Melbourne. After the mining came a succession of other uncongenial positions.
he began with that slight pulling backward and down of his head. Meanwhile. This pattern of unconscious activity constituted the preliminary to every recitation he gave. This close scrutiny continued for nearly ten years. There were to be no more doctors. in fact. This was something he did. he could see the same pattern at work as involuntary preparation in whatever else he undertook. Alexander began to examine closely how he used himself physically when he was on stage—keeping his eyes open and observing. In everyday physical acts. not only during his stage appearances. he lost his voice and left the stage in near despair. part of a whole body pattern that also included lifting his chest and hollowing his back. He discovered that every movement he made was accompanied by a slight tendency to pull his head backward and down. quite apart from speaking. Once aware of it.give him no more than temporary relief. 12 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE
. he came upon the characteristic that was blocking his own activity. with attention. At first. Soon he began to go beyond his immediate problem. It was only more noticeable in formal recitation because there it produced a depression of the larynx and an audible sucking in of his breath that could. In time. from the most trivial to the most strenuous. Alexander devoted himself to finding out what made him lose his voice.
The Patient Scientist
That was the turning point. Changing the poise of his head by pulling it backward and down was. which is fundamental to the spirit of all scientific inquiry. but also when speaking normally in ordinary conversation. halfway through an important engagement during the 1888 season. but also during any physical activity. One night. using mirrors while he declaimed as an aid to observation. the condition gradually worsened until he finally had to refuse engagements if he thought he might be incapable of getting through the performance. becoming fascinated with the whole question of what happens to the body not only in speech. Instead.
Through his students. mental and emotional well-being of people everywhere. athletes and celebrities of all kinds sought him out. theater people. Alexander resumed his theatrical career. Switzerland. all his other activities were likewise initiated in the same self-stultifying manner.
The Search and the Answer
We can come closer to understanding the nature of the discovery that underlies all we are going to learn in this book if we now outline it in the terms suggested at the outset of this chapter: a special kind of person makes an important HOW THE TECHNIQUE WAS DISCOVERED 13
. writers. he withdrew more and more from acting. He observed similar consequences. in everything else he did. Statesmen. Australia. France. industrialists. finally abandoning the stage to carve a unique career as a teacher of the Alexander Technique. Thus. movie stars. and a valuable compilation of his essential writings may be found in The Resurrection of the Body (Delta Books). He also produced several books.be seen and heard.
A Unique Mission
Since these patterns of bad use were triggered by an unconscious reflex of pulling the head backward and down. no matter what business or occupation. New Zealand. and during his lifetime he worked both in England and America. Italy. diplomats. on a different scale. But not for long. Israel. South Africa and other countries of the world. the obvious solution was to substitute for this negative action (with all the consequences it initiated) the conscious constructive movement of the head and body upward. He continued this mission until his death at the age of eighty-six. his teachings spread to Denmark. after he-had completely corrected the long-standing vocal disability that drove him from the stage. For as he pondered the far-reaching consequences of his startling discovery for the physical.
it takes almost ten years of searching through more minute movements before the secret reveals itself. Through years of carefully watching his every motion in an elaborate system of mirrors.finding through the circumstances of his or her particular life and in isolation from any tradition of scientific thought on the subject. No use in seeing more and more doctors. he is forced to see a doctor about the problem. While carefully limiting his theatrical obligations. where we find the young Alexander confronted with a problem of survival. Alexander resumes his profession with renewed confidence. only to have his voice fail completely halfway through an especially important engagement. Eventually. His career seems assured—his reputation is growing steadily. This leaves him with the ugly choice between (1) leaving the theater altogether or (2) applying himself tirelessly to discovering the cause of the problem. at last. he devotes the rest of his time to a painstaking and meticulous observation of the only clue he has—himself. a career on the stage. His great love for the theater had caused him to gravitate through a series of unchallenging occupations before attaining. for he realizes that the physicians of his day know even less about his condition than he does. and his only stumbling block is the occasional but very annoying tendency of his voice to give out during recitals. Being a far from submissive personality. In fact. At the age of nineteen. It turns out that the doctor cannot find the cause. Alexander has found the key. a remedy
14 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE
. The scene is Australia during the 1880s. and it precedes all efforts at vocal articulation. Thus armed. results are frustratingly slow in coming. but he does prescribe a medicine that might just do the trick. That secret is a small but perceptible contraction of the muscles at the back of his neck. Alexander chooses the latter. he is an actor specializing in the recital of long passages from the works of classic playwrights.
We are not split into body and mind. was this: mind and body are inextricably bound together. we need to prevent the neck from contracting unnecessarily. He must release that contraction with movement of his head upward. The effect of this is a compression of the spine.
Those Puritanical Hang-Ups
A major conclusion that emerged from Alexander's study and observation. They form an inseparable whole. And doing this means using the conscious mind to change our subconscious muscle patterns. Taken together. we need a new approach—one that can bring subconscious sensations forward into the conscious mind.
Outwitting Our Destructive Habits
Basically.will follow. we can consciously move our head upward. The person is one psychophysical organism. And this is only one destructive habit. Unfortunately. which can cause loss of voice. high blood pressure and chronic joint and muscle pains. repeated hundreds of times a day over a span of many years. With every act. interferes with the smooth operation of the muscular and nervous systems and all the vital organs. body following it. this destructive series can compress the body's trunk. thus squeezing the delicate organs that reside there. In order to revise things of which we are not aware. the action that most often precedes wasteful or harmful responses is a contraction which pulls the head slightly backward and down. and from his later teaching experience. It can lead to round-the-clock tension in some muscles. the first of a whole series that will follow if the first occurs unchallenged. which. To eliminate the problem at its source. the customs of language entrap us much
HOW THE TECHNIQUE WAS DISCOVERED 15
. reducing lung capacity and projecting the stomach unpleasingly forward.
With disastrous consequences for our daily life. can manifest itself in any of a thousand different ways that upset or swamp us." Or "my thoughts keep wandering. in fact downright lowly. into a mental part and a physical part. . Disdain for the mere "physical. we could be finding out what we are doing that keeps us from solving our problems. . if we happen to suffer from puritanical hang-ups.
THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE
. at the same time visualizing a something mental that is embedded in a something fleshly." we glibly say. Whenever we divide ourselves in two like this. After all. compared to the mind. personal grooming is neglected or forgotten . It's "that damn leg of mine. we tend to look down upon the fleshly part as being inferior. Often." We have something to blame.of the time into thinking so. or higher part. "A sound mind in a sound body. we may even persist in believing that the physical business of daily existence is unimportant or at least unworthy of our serious attention. The leaves go unraked. the clutter of papers on the desk remains untidy. the garbage is not carried out. the kitchen mess accumulates. the fault lies with one of those two separate halves. quoting the ancient Greeks. Instead." thus mistakenly conceived. we also run the risk of never being rid of our troubles.
However we go through any or all these activities." We can readily see why." he wrote. closing windows. for everything we do. casual or major. ease and endurance in everything you do—even sleeping. the great Nobel Prize physiologist. Besides. Sherrington. directly or indirectly. "but of the total neuromuscular activity of the moment. "To take a step is an affair not of this or that limb solely. Sir Charles S. once praised Alexander for his discovery. in insisting upon "treating each act as involving the whole integrated individual. walking. unscrewing the caps of jars or uncorking bottles. It does not matter what the activity is: lying in bed. the effects can afford relief in a very wide range of ailments that are caused. getting in and out of automobiles. opening and shutting doors. the whole psychophysical man. by stress and excess muscle tension.Chapter 3 Bringing the Alexander Technique into Your Life
Taking Alexander's discovery into your own life can mean strength. writing with a pen or pencil. he said." The Australian was therefore correct. standing up. a new way to integrate thought with action. always involves us in patterns of movement and rest. sitting down. It simply offers a different biological approach from the one you have been using. Adopting the Technique does not require you to embrace a new religion or far-out philosophy. reaching to a shelf. our particular patterns of move17
Circulation is slowed down. it provides enough room for your organs so that your breath can massage them. however. It's the same thing with your spine. and that causes malfunctioning of the parts of the body serviced by them. you're putting unnecessary pressure on the organs so that they can't function as well. Good use means moving the body with maximum balance and coordination of all parts so that only the effort absolutely needed is expended. for the movement of another in order to maintain balance and stability. for unless the vertebrae are stacked evenly. Some parts of the spinal cord will then experience more pressure than others. Good or bad. So in this attempt to gain desirable results forcibly. and usually inefficiently. the pressure of the body being supported by them is not evenly shared. these conditions of excessive muscular tension are likely to exist. The object is not to learn all the proper combinations of 18 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE
. Sometimes nerves are pinched. Indeed.
What Is Good Use?
The key concept of "use" is perhaps the easiest way to explain the Alexander Technique. you will be shortening others drastically. arthritic joints or an upset stomach. whenever you move without awareness. It sometimes happens that when you experience pain anywhere. but in fact this new excess tension in the joints and muscles will slow down circulation and actually prevent your body from healing itself. you simply abuse yourself in another manner. You do so presumably to protect the injured area by immobilizing it. If you try simply to push yourself erect. Bad use means employing the body in a haphazard way: one part of the body compensates at random.ment and rest constitute the particular use (Alexander's word) that we make of ourselves. If you are slumped down. as from a twisted ankle. the only possible result is that while you may be lengthening some muscles. you unconsciously tighten the painful area and often other parts of the body as well. everything we do in life manifests itself in the way we "use" ourselves. When your body is erect.
you are again caught up in movement. since its absence was based on nothing more than that transient "holding-in" known as posture. is continuous and involves both physical and mental fatigue. there are BRINGING THE TECHNIQUE INTO YOUR LIFE 19
. Conceivably. It is in fact quite absurd to think of attaining some ideal posture and then clinging to it through all your subsequent activity. For when they depart the parade grounds or the music hall. Unfortunately. The aim of the Technique is to allow a condition of ease throughout the body without creating any new distortions in the process.muscular action needed for all that you do and then try to think of them constantly as you move." a word that ought to be jettisoned because it in no way corresponds to the conditions of real life. you learn instead one Basic Movement that can control the normal flow of all your activity. the word might apply on the rare occasions when you take a stance before coming into a room. though. with its accompanying hollow in the back. The effort to hang on to some deliberate position. they drop the elevated chest and the forward curvature of the spine. You are not a statue to be propped about in various juxtapositions to meet the changing requirements of whatever you are engaged in. Such a course is both impossible and unnecessary. or when you stand poised at the head of the stairs. Through the Alexander Technique. So in learning the Alexander Technique. no matter what kind. or the very moment you start descending the stairs. however. leathernecks and chorines alike let go of these strenously maintained body attitudes. And your customary use of yourself will reappear immediately. In the ordinary work of walking and living.
You Are Not a Statue
Making good use of yourself by means of the Technique must never be equated with the static thing known as "posture. you must at the outset dismiss from your mind all shining examples of good posture. Forget the paragons of close-order drill in the Marine Corps or the symmetrical ranks of the chorus line at the Folies Bergère. Once you have entered the room.
You will not be asked to memorize the "right" pose for every possible body position (sitting.
The Breath of Life
A vital function of our body that is impaired by bad use is breathing.
No Positions. When you are not slumped. it may be well to state flatly what the Alexander Technique is not. and even if there were. Ideally. your lung capacity is thereby diminished. More air can then pass in and out of the lungs. do not look upon them as static poses or positions to be imitated. Second. They are intended only as a guide or pointer to the action described. standing and so on) and then go through life using these and only these poses. First of all. to prevent the least trace of confusion.
How to Look at the Pictures
When you consult the photos that accompany the directions in this book.people who do indeed seem to be trying to preserve just such a rigid and invariant attitude through all that they do. the blurry effects of such an attempt at authenticity would nullify the purposes of useful and simple instruction. Think of them as having been extracted from some ongoing movement. there is no "right" pose for any position. each illustration should be provided by stroboscopic photography or some other form of action picture. more room is provided in the chest cavity. This forces you to breathe with your upper chest rather than with your lower ribs and diaphragm. more waste materials are cleansed 20 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE
. and. No Poses
To forestall any possibility of error. However. the positions involved in darning a sock would require a whole lifetime of memorization. as a result. it would be different for every person on this planet because each human body is different. the mere act of getting out of a chair takes the body through more than a hundred positions. If you slump even slightly.
from your body. With the increase in the freedom of your breathing machinery, the quality of your voice can improve.
Let It Happen
Good breathing is integral to the Alexander Technique. This does not mean that you will need to practice it in the form of separate and isolated breathing exercises. As you begin to correct your faulty use, excess muscular tension will disappear. With the release of that tension, the action of your ribs and diaphragm in breathing will automatically take care of itself. As you progress, you may find yourself yawning or emitting deep sighs. Let them happen, for they come involuntarily and are an excellent sign that you are getting rid of excess tension. You will find that breathing supports movement at the same time that movement supports breathing. This natural and inevitable orchestration of the two is very different from superimposing some artificially learned breathing pattern upon your movements. Make sure you don't hold your breath. Don't try to do anything. Let it happen.
Your Breathing Improves
Notice, when talking, whether you are breathing in through your nose or your mouth. Give yourself time to breathe. It is helpful on occasion to close your lips and allow the air to come in through your nose when you need breath. This helps to release any tightness in the throat. Many of us develop the habit of gulping or sucking in air. This tenses the throat and is accompanied by a downward pull of the head. But when you don't collapse your chest and pull down, a slight vacuum is created in the lungs, which pulls in the air for you. When you breathe normally in this way, every time stale air leaves your lungs, new air will automatically come back in. Through the Alexander Technique, you can learn to leave your breathing mechanism— your body—alone to function freely and without effort. BRINGING THE TECHNIQUE INTO YOUR LIFE 21
How We Got This Way
To be sure, in this misguided quest, the breathingexercisers and the posture-builders may really be seeking some of the benefits that are achieved by the Alexander Technique. The grace and naturalness that the Technique imparts to you will be highly noticeable. Whenever you use it, your entire body will be more erect—your chest is not collapsed, your torso does not settle in on itself. As you continue to practice, an improvement in muscle tone occurs. If such are the blessings reaped through making good use of oneself, why are they so deplorably lacking in most of us? What has gone wrong? Why so much grief physically and mentally? It is the burden of civilization's advance, Alexander believed, that has brought upon us our present deteriorated condition. Today, instead of adapting our bodies to a slowly changing terrain, we capriciously adapt a fast-changing environment to arbitrary standards of comfort (even taste). Through current upheaval, the one thing that has remained essentially the same is the structure of the human body. Prior to the development of technology, changes in the world around us took place over a span of millions of years, slow enough for us to keep pace through subtle, unconscious alterations in the body itself. But our restless civilization has brought about a revolution in our surroundings so rapid that this process of gradual development has been quite outdistanced. As a result, the world we know now is completely foreign to the one to which human beings long ago adjusted. Our life-style has become a hybrid interaction of a body, originally adapted to primitive survival, with an environment of elevators, mattresses, automobiles and comfy chairs. Our physical and social universe is radically different, and our physical equipment has been impaired in its responses to the new demands thrust upon it by contemporary living. We have to make intelligent use of ourselves,
22 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE
said Alexander, if we want to meet the new conditions effectively.
Three Easy Tests
To illustrate the degenerative influence that civilized living has exerted upon the human organism, Alexander proposed three simple tests: (You are requested to interrupt your reading for a moment and carry out the following three experiments.) 1. Move your head without your shoulders. 2. Open your mouth without tilting your head back. 3. Turn out your toes without first shifting your heels. While doing each test, be alert and sensitive in registering how you move so you may catch the unnecessary movement involved.
See for Yourself
In quite the same spirit of experiment, you may now begin to notice, in the course of your daily activity, how you go about handling objects. Next time you brush your teeth, for example, stay alert and observe just how heavy the toothbrush is, how much energy is required to lift it and keep it in your hand. How much pressure is needed to brush? In the toothpaste commercials on television, it sometimes appears as though the people are trying to brush the teeth right out of their mouths. (See Fig. 8, p. 66.) You can make similar observations when you sit down to write a letter. With a little try-and-see, you can tell how much strength is actually required to hold onto the pen and get the ink to flow onto the paper. Once you consider how you actually go through any activity, you can begin to affect a change in your performance of it.
BRINGING THE TECHNIQUE INTO YOUR LIFE 23
the German writer Heinrich von Kleist makes this point by describing how a chained bear. And it is this. It is this same harmful pattern of involuntary preparation which is involved in everything we do. defeats and frustrates whatever we may intend on every level of our existence—physical. The road to the recuperation of our diminished faculties. the expenditure of energy in animal movement is exquisitely attuned to the requirements of what needs to be done." There is. which accompanied formal recitation. like a cat or a dog. Observe even a domestic animal. more than anything else. which blocks. cultural advantages and triumphs of civilization.The Road to Take
Animals in the wild miss out on the satisfactions. But the answer to the perilous misfunction that has befallen mankind through the anxiety and stress of modern living cannot be to call a halt to civilization. however. successfully defends itself by exerting very slight movements to deflect the thrusts and feints of a champion swordsman. In a famous allegory. definite movements. AND LET YOUR WHOLE BODY LENGTHEN BY FOLLOWING THAT UPWARD DIRECTION. emotional and mental. prevents. at rest. We are not about to rejoin the lower animals or "go primitive. which we will learn in this book. relying on animal instinct. What is more. but they are likewise spared its debilitating side effects. no underdoing. and you will see a creature completely relaxed yet still capable of making sudden. may be enunciated as follows: AS
YOU BEGIN ANY MOVEMENT OR ACT. MOVE YOUR WHOLE HEAD UPWARD AND AWAY FROM YOUR WHOLE BODY. No overdoing. and which is the essence of the Alexander Technique.
THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE
. They have no price to pay. The human antagonist is baffled by the perfect efficiency of the beast's innate responses. 'Alexander uncovered the whole pattern of bad use. a sane solution to our problem. In curing himself of his loss of voice by noting the slight pulling backward and down of his head.
as we shall see in the following chapter. personal happiness. that the strenuous and repetitive exertions popularly known as "phys. There are no exercises in this book. the calisthenic approach stands in direct opposition to the Alexander Technique. if you extend it through the whole range of your normal activity. however.
Not an Exercise
But first a word about a word. It is true. This distinction is especially important because. The mere performance of this simple movement can.Chapter 4 The Basic Movement
You are now ready to learn the Basic Movement that incorporates the Alexander principle in a form you can practice whenever you wish. and everywhere else in this book where a movement or action is given." can be performed more effectively and with much greater benefit once you learn the Basic Movement and apply its principle to them. joint-wrenching gyrations of any kind. In the Basic Movement. You are not called upon to run miles or to lift heavy weights. Nothing tiresome will be required of you. the word always refers to some movement or action of the utmost simplicity. in the deepest sense. put you on the road to a new life of health. physical freedom and. ed. It is in no way related to muscle-snapping.
. The word "movement" as used here has nothing to do with the 1-2-3-4! 1-2-3-4! calisthenics you did in gym class.
The Basic Movement Exploring Yourself
You may carry out this movement either while seated or standing. swim or bowl. the sooner you will experience a new lightness and ease and a sense of real assurance in whatever you may be doing. The sooner you apply to any normal activity—such as tying your shoe or lifting a bag of groceries—the Basic Movement of letting your head move up and letting your body follow. Next follow the instructions for the Basic Movement itself. rather. No trance: eyes open. Whether you play golf or tennis. or whatever your game may be. a guideline to follow: a new way of thinking and moving. Turn your head to look around you. Some Olympic rowers. We shall do it sitting. for example. It is not to be repeated mindlessly in hopes of programming yourself into some automatic routine that has nothing directly to do with daily living.The same applies to those more skilled and motivated forms of calisthenics which we call sports. It provides.
How to Start
The Basic Movement is preceded by a brief inspection of your total condition while you carry out the action in your customary or habitual manner. it can undergo amazing improvement after you have bettered the use of your body in pursuing it. This moment of selfobservation is presented under the heading "Exploring Yourself." and the same format is used as a preliminary to every other movement or action in this book.
26 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE
. are presently learning the Alexander Technique because it makes a real difference in crew performance.
Next. Allow your whole body to follow the upward direction of your head. Tip your head to look up at the ceiling. 7.
Your Whole Head
You must learn to think of your head as three-
THE BASIC MOVEMENT 27
. but that it is allowed to delicately lengthen during your head movement. then tip it down to look at the floor. the following clarification of the main words used should give you even more success the next time you do it. 6. 8.See the room. then forward to look down at the floor. tip it back to look up at the ceiling. Notice if this upward direction of your head affects the smoothness and ease of the side-to-side motion. continuing to let your head ease up. so that your neck lengthens above your shoulders instead of craning forward or jamming back. 4. (Figs. crackling sounds in your spine? Is your breathing slowed or stopped?
The Basic Movement
While turning your head slowly from one side to the other in order to survey the room. This does not mean that your body twists and turns with your head. (Figs. 1. Notice if it brings up and aligns your body. What do you notice about the turning of your head? Do you feel any tense or tight muscles in your neck? Does your body twist about when you turn your head? Do you hear any popping. Turn it from side to side. 5. Continue to allow your whole head to move up and away from your body while you perform the turning movement.3. add the Basic Movement: move your head up and away from your torso and let your body follow.2.) The upward direction will keep you from cramping your neck throughout these movements.) Remember to keep your eyes open and looking. (Figs.) Now that you've gone through the Basic Movement once.
2. From side to side.
THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE
. Beginning from a usual slump.1. Easing upward and away as you turn your head. 3.
Easing upward. And tip it forward. As you tip your head back.
THE BASIC MOVEMENT
.4. 6. 5.
the diameter of your vertebrae is larger than that of a silver dollar—not the size of a nickel or a quarter. It is important that you realize how substantial a support your neck provides for your head.dimensional.) When you remember that your chin is part of your head. not just along the back of it as many imagine. this means your whole head. you will understand that you do not need to hold your head up. When you are directed to move your head. top and front (your face). you will be less likely to jut it forward.
THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE
. (Fig. The fact is that the spine in your neck is very near the center of your neck. 9. sides. (Fig.
7. the neck is sturdy and the head rests easily on that large base as it moves. Also. Cramping your neck unnecessarily. thus pulling your head back and down. including the back. 8. 10. With this in mind.) Often people have a tendency to lead movements with their chin.
10. Jutting the chin forward needlessly.9.
THE BASIC MOVEMENT
. The whole head.
If you remember this connection. as you lean your body to the side. Perhaps you'll be aware that you were pushing 32 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE
. up toward the ceiling. includes your shoulders and ends at your hip joints. remember that upward always applies to movement—wherever the top of the spine happens to be pointing—and is not a fixed position. As a result.) However. 11. you will find that your body will automatically want to follow that upward movement.Your Whole Body
"Body" refers to your whole torso. you must not forget it.) Remember to think of your whole body as three-dimensional. that direction is. of course. (Fig. When you are sitting or standing. Simple as this may seem. back and front. including sides. (Fig. We're aiming for as much flexibility and ease as possible. and the moving of your torso up from the hips. your body must follow. Because your torso is connected to your head. It means the moving of your head up and away from your body.
The Upward Direction
"Upward" does not necessarily mean ceilingward. (Fig. when you allow your head to move upward. Your entire torso must be considered and no part forgotten. Upward directs a positive action in order to prevent the usual negative action of pulling the head back and down and slumping. causing unnecessary effort. "upward" is where the top of your spine points. the bottom line of your buttocks.
On Your Way
Repeat the Basic Movement and see what happens. in following the instructions.) Above all. People tend to think of only one dimension when allowing their body to move upward: either their front or their back. 12. their body will curve forward or backward. You will probably experience some sort of change or notice some difference. It begins at the base of your neck. 13.
THE BASIC MOVEMENT
. The whole body.11.
The Instant Train
The movement of the body following the head is fundamental to the Alexander Technique. You might compare it to the image of a train. In any case. you will have begun the process of keeping your eyes open and observing how you move.
THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE
. there will be no time lag between the movement of the cars and engine. If it is linked up properly. 73.yourself and using more effort to sit (or stand) than you are now. and the cars the remainder of the body. Or maybe you'll feel that it is easier to move your head in the way described. although the engine always begins the movement of the train with its forward impetus is transmitted almost simultaneously to each car."
12. Upward. Or as Alexander once paradoxically described the movement: "All together one after another. The engine represents the head.
It is a single adjustment.How to Succeed Without Really Trying
Most people learning something new are eager to discover the "right" way to do it. a very subtle and continuous movement of the head upward "only an infinitesimal amount" (as Alexander wrote from England to a man in America who was learning the Technique on his own). For as we have seen in the preceding chapter. though. there are no "right" positions. The Basic Movement is a first-class example of the way a very simple adjustment in the use we make of ourselves can have tremendous. external show. obvious. The lengthening of your neck when you move your head upward is tiny. far-reaching consequences. you are not required to take up any new position in order to correct your misuse. on the order of mil-
THE BASIC MOVEMENT
. What matters is that you improve the process of how you move. Here. The Basic Movement is accomplished without any big.
some people are reluctant to believe that anything remarkable can result from the Alexander Technique unless they do something that demonstrates huge effort. Your ruler may not detect the difference. It is perhaps part of our American credo to believe that only prodigious feats can produce worthwhile results. However. is one case where the big results come from a tiny change.
36 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE
. They strain their necks mightily.limeters. though. they try to become human giraffes. Here. But no neck-stretching whatever is required! Just a very slight movement of the head upward from the body will do the trick. but you will feel it in every bone of your body.
and the seven supplementary Actions that will follow in Part II.
The Trouble with Physical Exercises
After visiting the gym of a leading exercise teacher in Australia one day. Much the same is true of the numerous varieties of physical manipulation and massage that are applied to our bodies. any exercises we do to get in shape will likewise be carried out in a manner that is harmful. They are not likely to change our condition for the better. Some of these bestow considerable good upon us." the well-known nursery rhyme tells us. are clearly of a very different order from the strenuous push-pull. "There was a crooked man.
. "and he walked a crooked mile. In fact. they would continue to do so throughout their physical exertions. the repeated and accentuated performance of the prescribed movements—thus badly executed—increased the damage they were already doing themselves.Become a Whole Person
The Basic Movement you have just learned. This is because they have been designed with a very different objective from that of ordinary calisthenics. If they used themselves badly in ordinary life. If we comport ourselves in a manner that is harmful. Alexander became convinced that such training would never meet the needs of people who came there in quest of physical development." Just so. updown. left-right activity most of us associate with physical education.
We unfold the whole repertoire of our daily activity with little attention to how we are doing what we are doing. 38 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE
The Trance in Which We Live
Unlike conventional exercise and manipulation. Thus. if you are accustomed to a standard shift. driving a car. some welcome temporary relief from the pains and aches caused by a faulty swing. In this half-conscious state in which we operate. so too has our sensory awareness gradually adjusted to them. through alleviating treatment of this kind. we pay scant heed to the constant flow of information that is being communicated by our bodies. Moreover. the Alexander Technique coordinates conscious thought with action in order that you may deal with yourself. as these bad habits have developed little by little. Most of the time we operate our bodies on a subconscious level. Consider. for example. but his trouble will surely recur if the error in his swing is not corrected. think back to the last time you borrowed an automatic car and reached down for gears that weren't there. How often have you driven from point A to point B without noticing what lies between or even how you got to point B. Another person may be oblivious of a tendency to lift her chin and jut it forward (until she sees herself on television). they would now feel "wrong. a person may carry one shoulder higher than the other and never notice (were his shoulders to be set level for him. a muscle cramp." ludicrously askew). Perhaps a golfer can find." We simply don't get true messages from our bodies anymore. sore ligaments or illness—gets through.but their intention is not to teach a better use of ourselves. Or again. We cannot perceive the faulty way we are using ourselves because it has come to "feel right. Only the very gross or screaming message—a headache. We continue wearing ourselves out and tearing ourselves apart from day to day because we remain in deep ignorance of our bad tension habits until we reach a crisis of pain or run into some drastic physical or emotional trouble.
I was virtually unaware of this till I first listened to my voice on a recorded broadcast. the actual acoustic production plays a subordinate part. and. according to Koestler. do we get rid of the bad habits that plague us? The Alexander Technique. He offers himself as an example: "I am of Hungarian origin." So too may our singing be stridently out of tune and yet sound just fine to us until a musical accompaniment pulls us back on the track. meets the problem by calling BECOME A WHOLE PERSON 39
. I have a good ear for other people's accents. because in the perception of one's own voice. caused by a confusion between the event as intended and the event as it really happens? How. "The clumsy gesture is screened off from awareness by the direct impact of the image of the intended graceful movement on perception."
The Crown of the Senses
So how do we defeat this tendency toward what might be called a kind of wish-fulfillment in our senses. The same applies also to our gestures and movements. says Koestler. There may be a world of difference between what we think we hear and our performance as heard by others. and although my foreign accent retains the specific density of pea-soup.Our Mistaken Ideas About Ourselves
There is still another factor at work in this universal unfamiliarity with ourselves and our functioning. Perhaps no one has given a sharper and more disquieting picture of it than the writer Arthur Koestler. remarks Koestler. All this occurs. however defective and self-defeating they may be. People who listen for the first time to the sound of their voice played back on a tape recorder usually get a shock. in short. The main component of what we perceive is the sound we think we are projecting. but this discrepancy is masked from us by the process of hearing what we intend and not what we are in fact uttering. yet perceive my own voice as if it were free from it. therefore. all the Actions in this book for learning it.
Whenever we admire the seemingly effortless coordination in the movements of a great athlete. the development of this sense underlies the entire program set forth in this book. This enricher of the whole person is considered by some connoisseurs and gourmets of good physical condition to be nothing less than "the crown of the senses. or the agile ease and poise of a friend in the way he handles himself in all the ordinary activities of life. one speaker even accused the others. It is from this sense that we are continually receiving knowledge of the gestures we make and of the pressures or tensions anywhere in our body." though actually its sense organs may be found not only in the muscles. in their concern with it. of trying to "unscrew the inscrutable. In order to ensure that we are using our bodies properly. We use it to assess the range and force of our movements and also in adapting ourselves to the weight of anything we lift." the distinguishing mark of superb physical condition. a real chance is offered for the enrichment of our entire organism. we do not have to know the names of our muscles or how to locate them on a chart. It is the kinesthetic sense that supplies the information we need. but in the tendons and joint membranes as well. we are paying tribute to it. At a UNESCO conference on brain mechanisms and awareness. or the "kinesthetic sense" as it is called.upon a faculty we all possess but often overlook because it is not one of the so-called "five senses" we usually talk about. 40 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE
. Most everyone knows something at least about this faculty. It is not one of the original five long ago listed by Aristotle. Clearly evident in people like circus aerialists. but in calling upon this faculty. jugglers or sculptors." Since it is essential in the practice of the Alexander Technique. It is by means of this sense that we remain aware of the position of every part of our body even when our eyes are closed. it is deplorably lacking in a very great number of us. "Kinesthetic" is a cross between the words "kinetic" (motion) and "esthetic" (feeling) and means "feeling motion. It is sometimes called the "muscle sense." It is not really that inscrutable.
It was. Dearborn pointed out. however. as Dr.
Part Person vs." One trouble. Through the sensitive practice of the Basic Movement and the seven Actions which build upon it.
Discover a World Within
The "crown of the senses. Whole Person
There are always two ways a person can learn to carry out any action." heralded by Alexander.S. during the past decade due to the popular rise of the human potential movement. clear idea of ourselves in action. in this way. Virtually every branch of that movement makes some use of body awareness. The other way is to use the BECOME A WHOLE PERSON 41
." The effective practice of the Alexander Technique makes it possible to receive increasingly subtle messages from within. One way is to focus on the single part of the body that actually does the work. This in turn produces a harmonious interplay of all our faculties and thereby brings about the first visible fruit of our growing kinesthetic development: good muscular coordination. by no means entirely forgotten in earlier American efforts to promote physical and emotional fitness. The wise and respected New England medical educator Dr. get a good. N. has come very much to the foreground in the U. George V. we can increase the reliability of our kinesthetic sense and establish a new standard of good use.We can feel what we are doing and. sometimes so completely that many intelligent people go through their days "wholly ignorant even of the essential existence of these warpthreads in the fabric of our conscious life. He called it "the warp of the sensation-fabric—the personality's dynamic index of its body. is that the much stronger sense experiences of light and color may drown out this subtler experience. Dearborn always emphasized the important place that the kinesthetic sense holds in the life of every human being.
42 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE
. but must see whatever they look at. keep alert. It is the kinesthetic sense which. You will learn directly the benefits of this regular experience of complete personal harmony. the Basic Movement. his body may then compensate inefficiently to keep its balance. a person wanting to throw a ball will find that he must swing his arm. any number of things can happen that will cause more effort than necessary. From moment to moment. Do not hold your breath from a sense of strain. This does not mean exerting effort throughout your entire organism in order to swing your arm. With the first method. and when he hoists his shoulder. all parts included and coordinated to perform the action. Rather. to control whatever you do. you swing your arm in a manner that allows your whole body to be balanced and your energy to be directed effectively.natural integrating mechanism of the whole body. in time. You will then discover for yourself what it means in actual practice. enables you to allow this total pattern. The second way of performing an action is to involve your whole person in it.
Staying in the Moment
In carrying out the Actions that follow. He has no real awareness of the rest of himself. he may unwittingly raise his shoulder. So he swings his arm as best he can. For example. how it feels and how it affects a person to live by means of the unique. Your eyes must not become glazed. physically-mentally unified Technique you gain from these Actions. This means using the Basic Movement. during the whole time you devote to an Action. be open to any and every message of feeling that comes to you from the various parts of your body. Because there are so many possible combinations of tension.
down. unequal to the combat. lithe movement and springy step belie their actual age. stoop and wither before the onslaught of advancing years. That much is certainly true. is now surprisingly common at a much earlier time of life. That gravity does indeed provide a persistent and unvarying element in man's ecology there can be no doubt. down until finally. that the force of gravity. Indeed. Since our body consists of mass. it has become a prevalent sign of our era." no longer related to income group or social status and every bit as typical of men as of women. it plays a major role in whatever we do. working against us through all the years of our life. However. we tend to disregard or forget this reassuring evidence of our senses. elastic lineaments. what used to be known as "dowager's hump. it is self-evident that all our movements and activities are subject to gravity's pull. sunshine and other more familiar elements. An eyesore and a handicap. Like air. pulls us down. We continue instead under the spell of the rather sinister and frightening idea. We have all encountered at one time or another those rare men and women whose upright bearing. we are done in by it. But what about the rest of the theory? THE TECHNIQUE AS A WAY TO STAY YOUNG 43
.Chapter 6 The Technique as a Way to Stay Young
The youthful manner and attractive bearing attained through the Alexander Technique should dispel once and for all the conviction that men and women must inevitably bow down. widely accepted at present.
Down. all this is the price we pay for standing erect. The skylab astronauts gave us yet another glimpse of this force's baneful effects when they emerged—after months of living outside it—in a remarkably unkinked condition. drooping mouth and hanging breasts. we seem peculiarly ill-equipped for maintaining an upright position. it is felt "in every movement of our limbs. and the problem is one that has been with us ever since the forepaws of our prehistoric ancestors left the ground. . In this view. which was partly the result of not being pulled down. and thus being permitted to straighten out. we find ourselves inextricably locked in a lifelong struggle. people actually lose about half an inch in height. Thompson. According to the biologist D'Arcy W. During sleep. Gravity has slowly squashed them to the ground. They had even gained in height (and lost at the waist).Why We Shrink
According to a popular view. which lays us on our death bed and lowers us to the grave. as on earth. unceasing pull upon us of this antagonistic force has been assigned responsibility for a very great number of the woes of aging."
The Upright Creature
Supposedly. For 44 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE
. down. in every beat of our hearts. As bipeds. it works its malign influence upon us. it is the indomitable force which defeats us in the end. pitting human strength against gravity's relentless power with no chance of winning. when we lie in a position parallel to the ground and thus alter the effects of the ubiquitous pull. The unflinching. down . . Throughout the day." and "it leaves its mark in sagging wrinkles. Studies have shown that between getting out of bed in the morning and getting back in at night. But the cumulative results of a lifetime of unequal struggle can be seen in some bent-over and hobbling older people who have lost many inches. we regain that lost stature. the quadruped is more fortunately constructed for resistance to gravity than we are. without let-up or cease.
deformation and distortion depending upon the disparity between the pull and each person's total power of response to it. two-legged human race. This situation is said to account for many of the chronic progressive and degenerative conditions which afflict the falteringly upright. In a fierce book. The immediate battleground for humans versus gravity may be discerned throughout the musculo-skeletal system whose mainstays are the pelvis. with our heavy head and shoulders weighing down the skeletal structure. Just standing up is a kind of acrobatic triumph involving an exact balance of varying degrees of contraction and relaxation in more than two hundred pairs of muscles. Our spine is flexible. However. Standing or sitting. the spine and the network of muscles and ligaments. perhaps an ingenious device for cushioning shock. Physiologically.one thing. Richard Selzer totaled up the outward woes he thinks indicate that our erect stance THE TECHNIQUE AS A WAY TO STAY YOUNG 45
. like an inverted pyramid. the greatest strain is sustained by the musculo-skeletal structure that keeps us erect. in respiration and circulation as well as in the nervous system. Failure or defeat in any of these components adversely affects the overall struggle. And strain means injury.
Must We Fall Apart?
While gravity depresses all the elements of the body. the weight of our inner organs is carried high above our center of gravity. how—in this view—can we hope to contend with gravity's pull? We are compelled to oppose its force by sheer muscular power. These muscles are reflexively maintained in a state of tonus— partially contracted and ready for work—except when the body is lying completely horizontal. curved in several places. we appear to be top-heavy. Our structural frame is an intricate system of articulated levers—bones and joints— that are held and moved by our muscles and tendons. but far from ideal for steadying our weight. repercussions of the conflict are felt in all the other major systems of the body. Dr. Mortal Lessons.
the human species. Our flesh pushes itself through into hernias. our vertebrae. and before they are physically corrupted. And the mechanism is by now genetic. Mental confusion. Observe a baby come to sitting position by itself. Selzer. feeling. 46 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE
. mood. Or watch a baby turn its head. This reflex of good use can be observed in infants. it pivots smoothly without tension. no strain in the back or anywhere else. which enables us to deal handily with the earth's pull. In the very long history of walking erect. the whole body is in a system of balance. We obviously had to develop a way of neutralizing the effects of gravity in order for our life to have continued on earth. the extreme and scary picture we have just looked at. is both one-sided and incomplete. the adventure of assuming an upright posture would probably never have been sustained if man had not become capable of it. which is so popular today. attitude and behavior may also figure in the generalized failure of our adaptation to the ordinary strain of being on the earth's surface. buckle and wear out. He found that body chemistry as well as the regulatory and coordination mechanisms of the body are all affected. Our hip joints grind to a stop. Man is a perfect match for gravity. as Professor Tinbergen has pointed out. They move in a superb manner quite naturally. In the first two or three years of life as they gain mobility. It does not fully or accurately represent man's complex relationship to the downward pull he experiences from the earth.cannot successfully resist the pressure imposed upon us by gravity. From an evolutionary viewpoint.
How We Conquer
As it happens. The arches of our feet fall. We inherit an easy good use of our bodies. must have evolved a suitable equipment and the correct mechanism for biped locomotion. According to Dr. piled one atop the other. their actions are beautifully free and easy. Our blood gathers in hemorrhoids and varicose veins. slip.
it is we who work against ourselves. We no longer have to depend upon large jolts or shocks from tensing muscles to tell us if something is happening. We actually feel heavier because of pressure put on the joints by excess muscular tension. detailed studies of this natural mechanism have offered a technical explanation in anatomical and physiological terms. In effect. THE TECHNIQUE AS A WAY TO STAY YOUNG 47
. Only those muscles which are essential to a particular action are used in that action. 1. what has been discovered is that when all the body parts are balanced and integrated.). If the head does not initiate. we shorten our necks and pull our chests down. as with a leaning column or an uneven tower of blocks. The movement of the head leads and influences the movement of the body so that all parts (muscles) are coordinated and work in a harmonious system of contraction and relaxation. Rather. some form of additional support—in the case of the body. the human species is constructed in a way to resist the pull of gravity effortlessly in keeping itself erect. The correct messages from one body part to another (coordination) are relayed and interpreted properly. We sense a new way of moving. with its energy and movement directed up through the top of that column—the whole torso following the head—the body will work efficiently and flexibly. the reflex of our movement will be interfered with and muscle will be pitted against muscle. and gravity merely compounds the problem. A jutting part here or there creates an imbalance and. And it is because of these tense habits that it so often feels as if gravity must be working against us.) In this condition. When arranged naturally in a sort of flexible column. In attempts to control ourselves. the reflex system of the body is allowed to work. the body column will be out of kilter (Fig. or shorten and arch our backs. different from our previous experience of tension-filled activity.It Goes by Itself
Careful. tense muscles—is needed to keep it standing. When we do not trust our body's ability and interfere with this natural reflex of ease. (Fig. things go wrong. 2.
1. Energy and movement directed upward.
THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE
. The body column out of kilter.
The Alexander Technique. The new equilibrium gives relief and freedom to dozens of muscles that were previously engaged full time in "holding on" to maintain a condition that is at best a rough and hapless approximation of true balance." "Your posture is terrible." But long before we heard these and similar unhelpful exhortations. the body following. ourselves." "Or "Little girls don't sit like that. is obviously an old. Our misuse of ourselves in all that we do is the consequence of modern living.
A Future Without Fear
Proper adjustment to gravity in the way we stand. walk and move. produces this desired alignment of the total structure. muscles throughout our body are tensing—holding on—in an effort to keep us as we are. through the tasks we were called upon to perform before we THE TECHNIQUE AS A WAY TO STAY YOUNG 49
.Never a Feeling of Strain
We meet gravity by keeping our "balance. Most of us consider ourselves balanced when we stand (otherwise how could we?). Even when we think we're relaxed. The magnificent engineering of the human body does not require it." "Don't slouch. And this muscular release goes a long way toward explaining why the Technique is effective in eliminating superfluous tension. then. through the models we encountered and imitated in early family life and school. But in fact we usually are holding onto something—namely. Most of us are still trapped by the distant voices of parents and teachers repeating: "Stand up straight." and an elementary definition of the word is: the state of not having to hold onto something in order to maintain a position. bringing the head into real physical balance on top of the spine. Our bone structure (skeleton) is so finely organized a system of arches and supports that it takes only a tiny contraction of muscles to maintain us in the "work" of standing. inherited form of behavior. Such excess tension is unnecessary. our superb natural functioning had already vanished because of the way we were handled as infants.
50 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE
. The youngster now starting out. or the adult of middle or advanced age. The foreshortening of the back neck muscles with which we initiate our every act. The effect is too strong for the body to resist. This is why the popular picture of gravity as inescapable master and despoiler is for so many of us the stark truth. and the entire trunk and spine are slowly compressed. means that tension and gravity are operating in concert. has no reason to dread that the years ahead are going to pull him or her down in a decline of slow surrender to gravity. The upward movement of the head followed by the body can free us to initiate whatever we choose to do in whatever manner we choose to do it. we can call a halt to our customary interference with the body's natural reflexes and thus facilitate our antigravity response. we violate our own natural mechanism for meeting the downward pull exerted on all forms of terrestrial life. and through our adaptation to the furniture and paraphernalia with which we lived. We are no longer the helpless playthings or victims of a hostile force from below. But this need not be. In the way we misuse ourselves. We can reverse that trend once and for all the moment we decide to change our bad use of ourselves and reinstate our pristine grace.had the physical capacity or readiness. By means of the Alexander Technique. and which Alexander pinpointed as the root of our difficulties. we can regain our easeful place on the planet and go confidently forward with the concerns that matter in our life. By means of the Alexander Technique.
P A R T II The Practice of the Technique How to Do It
therefore. Often the Basic Movement within the Action description is italicized.
UPWARD DIRECTION. in your kitchen or office. which was given in Chapter 4. No Leotards
The Actions in this program are simple. which will show you how to apply the basic principle to all your movements. (2) the Action itself. w h i c h as we h a v e s e e n i s : AS YOU BEGIN ANY MOVEMENT OR ACT. Each Action leads to the next according to a definite plan. Each step consists of three parts: (1) a preliminary exploration of your personal condition before you begin. (When the weather permits. to refer to it before undertaking a new movement. That movement contains the key to the whole
T e c h n i q u e . AND LET YOUR WHOLE BODY LENGTHEN BY FOLLOWING THAT
It is advisable. are extensions and developments of the Basic Movement.The Seven Actions
An Effortless Program
The following chapters present a simple step-by-step program of seven Actions for learning the Alexander Technique. but all the Actions.
No Dumb-Bells. without exception. They do not employ anything in the way of athletic equipment or apparatus. You can do them anywhere: at home or at work. MOVE YOUR WHOLE HEAD UPWARD AND AWAY FROM YOUR
WHOLE BODY. doing
. and (3) suggestions for how it may be applied to everyday life. Keep in mind these and other italicized instructions throughout the Action as they are essential to the success of your experimenting.
them outdoors will provide the additional benefit of fresh air.) The Actions require no gym shorts, or leotards or other special outfits. Street clothes, office clothes—any clothes you happen to be wearing—are fine, and no change of apparel will be necessary afterward. Whatever clothes you do wear should, however, allow you sufficient leeway so that you are not restricted in your movements and do not feel hampered in your breathing. If your clothes are not decently comfortable, you may want to loosen your shirt collar or open your belt a notch. Simply do whatever is needed to allow you to be freer in moving about and less confined in your breathing.
A Way to Begin
Read the instructions for each Action slowly until you have an idea of what it is. (If you prefer, have someone read the instructions aloud to you.) Then proceed to carry them out in the manner described. Sometimes the instructions are given in metaphorical language to convey what is wanted. Thus, when you are instructed to "direct your energy upward," don't worry about a scientific meaning: simply follow the instruction! You needn't do a great many Actions at one session; you may prefer to do them gradually. For example, you may do an Action for a day or so, noticing throughout the rest of the week how that particular movement appears when it shows up in your everyday activities. Then go on to the next Action. Initially, follow them in the order given, as each movement leads to the next according to a definite plan. Some people may prefer to do several a week. Be your own judge of your particular rate. Later, you can always return to a given Action and see if you can discover something more in it. However often you repeat them, you will always derive some benefit, provided the element of awareness is there. Never do them mechanically; you are not a machine. Indeed, treating yourself THE SEVEN ACTIONS 53
like a machine is the bane of what is ordinarily meant by "exercise." Paying attention to what is happening every moment of this program reeducates your senses and muscles.
For Your Enjoyment
Although a conscientious attitude is necessary, it is not necessary to drive yourself to the limits of your endurance. Indeed, that is an entirely wrong approach. It is far more beneficial to do an Action sensitively three or four times, without strain or tension, than to do it automatically many times. Remember, you are not in competition with anyone. You are doing the Action only for yourself, for your own good. If you rush through a meal, you do not give yourself the opportunity to taste what you are eating or to digest the food properly. Ill-digested movement, like ill-digested food, is less beneficial to you. You will enjoy the Actions more if they are done in a spirit of experiment and play. You should even allow yourself a little time in which to feel and enjoy the aftereffects of each Action. Do not rush from one directly into the next. Tall, short, thin, fat, lanky or padded, whatever the proportions of your body and whatever your age, there is nothing to prevent you from learning these Actions and doing them with enjoyment. You will adjust them to your own body as you go along.
Nine Rules to Follow
1. Your "head" means the whole three-dimensional globe—not just your face or chin or some other part of it. (See Fig. 9, p. 31.) 2. Your "body" means the whole torso. (See Fig. 11, p. 33.) 3. "Upward" indicates a direction, not a fixed place. (See Figs. 12, 13, pp. 34 and 35.)
THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE
4. Refer to the Basic Movement (pp. 26-27) each time you proceed to a new Action. 5. Perform each Action at your own pace, not in the fastest way possible. How is what matters. 6. Stay alive: Keep breathing and seeing the world around you. There is no reason to hold your breath or go glassy-eyed. 7. Do not worry about executing the Actions "correctly." It is not a question of doing them the "right way," but rather of discovering greater flexibility and freedom in your movements. 8. Breathe easily and naturally through your nose. 9. Perform each Action as though for the first time.
THE SEVEN ACTIONS 55
but look around the room by turning your head.) While allowing your head to continue 56 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE
. (Fig. Repeat three or four times. Note any sensations of which you are aware. Notice whether or not you are able to move your head more easily and let your head move up. Do you really need to use your body as well as your neck to turn your head? Lean forward and then sit back in the chair. don't change your position. Let your whole head move up and away from your body and pivot on the top of your spine (top of your neck). such as a popping or crackling noise in your spine. include your body in that upward movement and lean forward. but don't force your head around. Involve your neck muscles as needed. Now that you've begun to think about how you are using your head. sore muscles or stiffness. Your neck will twist a little to let your head turn farther to the right or left. What parts of you tense in order to move forward and then back? Do you push yourself forward instead of letting your hip joints simply hinge? Do you hold your breath?
Applying the Basic Movement
Still sitting.Action 1 Leaning Forward and Backward
Sit in a chair and turn your head from side to side and then up and down to look around the room. 1.
Try both.upward and away from the top of your spine.
Applications to Daily Life
Some examples of leaning forward and back: tying your shoe while seated. Unnecessary pushing with your body. find out the difference between pushing your head up with your body and following the upward motion of your head.V.
1. on or off from your chair. In leaning forward. (Fig. tip your head forward. simply bend at the hips to lean forward. lighting someone's cigarette from a seated position and eating at the table.) If you have difficulty moving without pushing. reaching to turn the T. 2. let your body follow upward as it leans forward in space. toward the floor. 2. then let your body follow that motion.
LEANING FORWARD AND BACKWARD
. Lean forward by lengthening upward. Keep your seat.
pull down a little more than you normally would." one of my teachers would often say. (Fig. How to Get Out of a Slump "Sometimes you just want to have a good old slump. 5. The tendency is to collapse the chest and push the chin toward the bowl in order to avoid spilling the soup. The next time you discover yourself in a slump. (Fig. (Fig.) You will also appear more graceful and eliminate the balancing act.) You may have tried the opposite strategy: sitting very straight and trying to balance the spoon all the way to your mouth in an effort to appear graceful. 6. 3.) Then experience getting out of that position by first becoming aware of a real connection be-
58 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE
.) Probably the easiest way to eat soup is to lean forward effortlessly (by following your head up) and then let your torso curl slightly to bring your mouth closer to the bowl.Eating Soup Especially watch what happens when you eat soup. (Fig. 4.
You've achieved a little more ease just by moving. (Fig. Easing upward.) Greater freedom in breathing brings greater freedom in speaking. let the upward energy continue.
LEANING FORWARD AND BACKWARD
. 20-22. While you have been learning to follow the upward direction of your head with your whole body. 7. your body following up after it while you lean forward and then back. Pulling down.
The Way You Talk
How you talk is affected by what you do with your head. 5. (See pp. Stiff.) Note the change that has taken place as you emerge from your slump.tween your whole head and whole body. 4. As
you talk. Then begin to let your head move up delicately. straight and awkward. you may have noticed a change in your breathing. Try reading aloud from a book and see if you can notice what you do with your head and neck. Do you leave them free or do you pull them down?
Now think of moving your head up and away from your body and letting your body follow that direction while you speak. You can do this anytime you find yourself slouching.
6. You are therefore using more effort than you need to for speaking. with your thumbs on the underside of your jaw. Easing upward. very gently place your fingertips on your chin just below your lower lip. Now open and close your jaw with your hands. leaving the jaw muscles loose. The slump.
The ease of your head also helps your lower jaw to release. You can change this by allowing your body to follow the upward motion of your head. To check the flexibility of your jaw.
THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE
. it usually indicates that you hold tension there when you speak. When you have difficulty moving your jaw in this way.
Let your head begin easing away from your body. while you lift your arms will affect the ease and efficiency with which you can move them. 2. While your neck lengthens and your body follows the upward motion of your head.
Apply the Basic Movement
Place your hands on the tops of your thighs. 1. Starting with your arms at your sides. let your arms lengthen out through your fingertips.) Move your hands along your legs toward your knees. lift both over your head. Every part of your body is related to every other part in movement. (Figs. 3. At first. Do you tense your neck or jut your chin forward? Do you lean forward or backward with your upper torso? What parts of your body besides your arms are involved in this movement? Perhaps there are other things that you'll notice.Action 2 Moving Arms
Do this one while sitting. Then bring them down again. When your arms are 61
. Then try moving them quickly and in several different ways. Leave your hands there and let your arms rest comfortably at your sides. later. palms resting down. what you do with the remainder of your body. legs included. continuing to pay attention to your head and body. you can try it standing. In other words. do the movement easily enough to notice what you do with your body and head.
4. (Figs. Repeat the movement of raising your arms.straight. (Fig. 5. When your hands touch your knees. let your arms lengthen and let your head rest lightly on the top of your neck. Then let your arms come back down in front of you. During this entire sequence. adding to it the new direction for your shoulders. you needn't force your shoulders to move this way.) Think of
each shoulder moving to the side upward and outward from the
body to prevent any unnecessary tightening there.) As with your head and body. 6. bend your elbows and bring your hands back to your upper thighs. lift them over your head. 7. although you can allow them to move. Beware of pulling down or tightening your chest. shoulders or neck to move your arms.
Applications to Daily Life
What usually happens is that people shorten most of the muscles of any limb or any part of the body to move that part
62 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE
Brushing Your Teeth A good example of how most people do more work than they need to is brushing teeth. In the course of your daily activities. By watching how you use your arms. That locks the elbow joint. 3. pulling the upper arm toward the shoulder. That takes a lot of extra work. you will be able to avoid a lot of excess tension that would otherwise occur in your shoulders and neck. Ask yourself if the energy you use is really appropriate to how light a toothbrush is and the amount of pressure you need to apply to your teeth.
. For example.
1. let your arms lengthen. and most people do it unwittingly.or to bend a joint. While your body follows your head up. Then we unconsciously select the proper muscle to do the bending and use that muscle to work against the rest of the muscles. we make a tiny jerk of the arm. to bend the elbow the way most of us do. notice how you reach to pick up and use an object. 2. which are shortening.
No need to pull down and tighten.
THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE
. 5.4. 6.
) 7. (Fig. (Fig. (Figs.) There is a tendency in standing activities like this one to lock your knees. 11. 9. See if you can make it easier.) Also note if you are overdoing the action by reaching out toward the door long before you get there. Then let your head ease up and your body follow and see if you can allow your arm to float up to the knob by lengthening out through your fingertips. 10. Do a little experimenting to see how much strength is actually required to reach out to the knob and take hold of it.Next time you brush. 8. Also notice what you do with your other arm and your shoulders. which simply adds an unnecessary restriction to your freedom of movement.
. give it some thought. Your shoulders move upward and outward. Opening a Door You can make similar observations when you open a door.
especially children. The amount of ease you have in your own body affects almost anyone you touch. Pulling down.8. a child can feel it in the way you touch him. Next time you pick up your son or daughter. think a little and notice what you are doing with yourself. Let your head move up and your arms lengthen and hold the child with the 66 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE
. 9. If you are tense and nervous.
With Children The way you use your arms in handling a young child will definitely affect how that child moves. The body following the head upward.
least amount of effort needed. Also important is exactly what part of the child you hold when you lift him or help him to walk or to sit. support him at the torso. Overdoing.
11. he uses his whole body in a system of balances with no tension in his back or anywhere else. The amount of ease from you that reaches the child will influence him to calmer and less resistant behavior. an undue amount of tension is produced in his back and shoulders. Do not inject any effort into the easy movement the child already possesses.
MOVING ARMS 67
. When you support a child with your hands in helping him to sit or stand. When a six-month-old child is brought up by pulling on his arms. which is maintained while the baby sits.10. On the other hand. Lengthening. if the child brings himself to sitting.
hips forward. As you start walking again. step out with your right foot and walk forward. bend your right knee. Notice in which direction your energy moves. 4. 3. From a standing position. the upward
movement of your head and torso will move you forward.Action 3 Walking with Ease
Find a room that has some open space enough to walk around in comfortably. begin to walk. As you let your head move upward and away from your body with your torso following. (Figs. This will allow you to move as a unit rather than in disconnected sections—for example.
Applying the Basic Movement
Begin standing. 2. then head.) Stop and start again several times.) When walking. Which part of your body leads as you walk? Stop. then shoulders following. It will help if you start
. (Figs. shift your weight onto your left foot. stopping and starting several times until you feel that you have made some discoveries about your usual walk. 1. you
do not need to lean or fall forward. note what part of your body begins the motion and which direction you move in first: side to side? backward? forward? Continue walking for a few minutes. with each step forward consisting of an awkward fall on that foot.
Walking with ease.1.
WALKING WITH EASE
THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE
. Moving in disconnected sections.
with hips forward.4. Awkward.
WALKING WITH EASE
. head dropped.
see that you ease your head upward and allow your body to follow up after it. there's often a tendency to pull the head back and down.)
72 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE
. You'll be pleased at the gain in lightness and ease.with both feet under you and your weight evenly distributed. Place your fingers on the front side and thumbs on your upper buttocks. (There is naturally a slight. Notice whether your hips shift from side to side or up and down.
Applications to Daily Life
My first experience with walking by means of the Alexander Technique was new and strange to me. 5. Avoid thinking of moving your head upward and then walking as two separate actions.) Jogging and Running With any degree of speed. whether you start at a gallop or more gradually accelerate from a walk to a run. (Fig. To test this for yourself. I felt that my feet would no longer reach the floor. I was letting my body glide along at a constant distance from the floor while continuing to explore the act of walking. infinitesimal undulation of the hips forward and back when you walk—unless you tense up and interfere with it. putting your hands at the spot on each hip where your leg bends. Each time you start. I discovered my old habit had involved sinking into my hips and throwing myself off balance every time I shifted my weight from one leg to the other. notice whether your head continues to ease up as you walk. I discovered I was no longer pushing into my hips toward the floor on every step. Remember that walking and easing upward happen at the same time. Instead. 6. therefore. walk around the room. (Fig.) In running. that I had to stretch my legs to get them down there. For once I began walking by the Alexander Technique.
which helps increase the speed and control of it. Only when he is willing to let his head move up and his body follow. Easing upward. 6.) Otherwise he fears he cannot swing hard enough. the golfer is getting in his own way. will he maintain an upright stance and his arms have the greatest flexibility possible.Playing Golf In golf. shoulders easing out.
WALKING WITH EASE
. 8. pressing in and down to brace himself in order to swing. 7.) This important advantage is often sacrificed in the supposed interest of power. Downward pressure.
5. With a compacted approach. The golfer thus compacts his body. it is the speed of the club head and not the force with which it is swung that makes the ball travel farthest. He will then have a true one-piece swing. (Fig. However. (Fig. His whole body will become involved in the swing. the upright stance provides flexibility in the shoulders and the torso and makes possible the maximum control over the swing.
THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE
.7. Lengthening upward and outward.
WALKING WITH EASE
2. Now lower your leg down to the floor. Take note of how successful you are at balancing on one leg. Move your head and look around the room.) Avoid sinking into the leg on which you are standing (Fig.) or lifting the hip of the leg being lifted. 3. you may use it to balance yourself during this exploration.) Imagine a line drawn from one hip to the other and keep that line parallel with the floor. let your head
ease upward and away from your body and let your body follow
Applying the Basic Movement
Still stabilizing yourself when you need to. Rest one hand on it lightly. do you release it and drop it easily or do you reach at the floor with your foot and tense the muscles in your leg as you lower it? Once again take note of what your head and body have been doing. (Fig. bend your right knee and lift your right leg until your thigh is about parallel with the floor. (Fig. Lift your right leg till your thigh is parallel to the floor. 1. Does your right lower leg hang as freely from your knee as it can or is it tense? Do you lift or move your right hip unnecessarily? When you lower your leg. (Fig. As your body continues upward.) 76 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE
. 4. Lift and lower your right leg several times.Action 4 Moving Legs
Stand next to a firm waist-level surface.
1. Lift your leg.
Push your lower leg with either hand instead of using your muscles to swing it. first make sure the whole sole of your
foot is touching the floor.Now let your raised leg swing forward and back freely from your knee down. it would swing like a pendulum until it lost momentum. Lift your other leg by bending the knee while letting your head and body
THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE
. It should be free enough so that if someone were to push it lightly. Before you shift
any of your weight onto it. then move your head and body upward as your weight shifts to that leg. Then gently release that leg to the floor.
Lifting the hip needlessly. Then shift your weight from the back foot to the front by moving your head away from the top of your spine and letting your body follow that upward motion over your foot. lift your leg a shorter distance so that finally you will be walking easily. 4. allow your foot to come to the floor in front and to the side of the foot that supports you. The line of the hips is parallel to the floor. On each step. 3. Let your lower leg swing freely. MOVING LEGS 79
. The next time you repeat lifting one of your legs.continue upward. Avoid sinking into the hip. then gently release at the hip joint until your foot touches the floor again. The important
How much effort is necessary to get up to the next step? A typical attitude held is that a person must push downward in order to move up to the next step. The error occurs when a person doesn't experiment with his attitude—doesn't try out easier ways to do the job. (Fig. Upward direction. People have pre-set attitudes toward almost every physical task they perform.
THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE
.) The problem occurs
Downward direction 6. Examine your attitude toward climbing stairs.
Applications to Daily Life
Walking Up and Down Stairs Many students of the Alexander Technique find that walking up or down stairs makes them realize how much less effort is needed when directing their energy upward. 5. These attitudes generally involve erroneous judgment of how much effort is required to perform a task or how their bodies must work to do it well.thing is to discover how to allow your body to go upward and forward over your legs instead of being carried by them like dead weight. So the direction of energy is often downward when a person climbs stairs.
usually because it is never approached consciously.
7. 6. Most people place all their weight onto the forward foot before straightening the leg. you can still look down at the stairs to see where you are stepping. 8. Avoid freezing your gaze.
. Pulling down. In going up an incline. place your foot lightly on the step and gradually straighten your leg as you follow your head upward and forward to move your body above that stair. (Fig. apply the same principles. To climb stairs the Alexander Technique way. nor do you need to jump from foot to foot.) Walking down stairs is often done with equal inefficiency. simply allow your knee to bend forward as you follow your head upward. Easing upward. allowing your head to move upward and your body to follow.) There is no need to keep the muscles of your knee in constant tension to serve as a brake. When you are walking up or down stairs. which requires extra work in order to maintain balance and control. To move down a staircase. 7. (Fig.during the shift of weight after the foot has been lifted to the next stair.8. and the effort involved in straightening the leg with most of the body weight on it is exhausting.
lift each heel off the floor and put it down again. You may notice that as you move your ankle. Leave the ball and toes of your foot on the floor. one at a time. Very slowly.
Applying the Basic Movement
Begin as before with your feet at least five inches apart and pointing forward in whatever position is most comfort-
. See if you are locking your ankle joint at the top of the movement—with heel as high as possible—and at the end of the movement—with foot flat on the floor. on the outside or evenly across the front of your foot. Look for the same indications of freedom or tension. When your heel comes up. rest your feet on the floor about five inches apart and pointing forward. such as a car jack. where does the pressure on the ball of your foot fall? Is it under your big toe.Action 5 Heel and Toe
Sit in a chair. in the center. Notice whether or not the movement is smooth. in little jerks. it moves as though it were on a ratchet. up and down. This indicates excess tension and that you are tensing the muscles around your ankle. as is most desirable? Do you have to tense your thigh or calf to lift your heel? Also try slowly lifting your toes off of the ground so that only your heel remains on the floor.
2. but rather to allow it to be its full length and free of tension. Then stand up and walk around to see what changes have occurred. Keep the ball of your foot on the ground and spread your toes. As you continue. then let the remainder of your foot. (Fig. Now lift your toes off the ground so that only your heel remains on the floor.) Then as you let your heel very gently down to the floor. Repeat with your other foot. It will either become easier. Now see what happens when you repeat this action. and let the movement of your ankles fit in with it. it will be harder to move them freely. you are becoming aware of how you move your ankle. (Fig. This does not mean stretching your leg. include your legs in your awareness.) In order to begin and complete this movement. But something constructive is happening. (Fig. follow upward. The body's motions can now be consistent from the top of your head to the tip of your toes. be unchanged or become tiring. between your hip socket and your knee and between your ankle and your knee. Remain aware of the relationship between your head and body.
HEEL AND TOE 83
. except your heel. release your ankle and continue lengthening your bent leg. See if you can find the most efficient way (the one involving the least tension) to raise and lower your heel. If you concentrate solely on your ankles to the exclusion of the rest of your body. When you understand how easing your head upward and letting your body follow affects the movement of your ankle and every other part of your body. Think of your whole leg getting longer. 1. Lengthen your leg all the way from heel to hip. Avoid contracting the muscles of your thigh by continuing to lengthen your leg as your left heel comes very slowly off the floor as far as it can. 3. let your toes come back to the floor. Let your toes bend slightly up from the floor.) Sit comfortably. There is no set way to do it. you will begin to improve your use of yourself.able. Now as you let your head move upward and away from your body and allow your body to
follow. let your head ease upward and follow it with your body.
THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE
. the upward direction of your head and body. but there is no need to focus on them except when doing this Action.Applications to Daily Life
Freedom in your ankles is essential for efficient and easy walking. Generally. will give you added freedom of motion. now including your legs and feet. Foot flat on floor pointing forward.
2. Lift your toes. 3. Lift your heel.
HEEL AND TOE 85
which creates more pressure than is necessary. let them go forward.
Applying the Basic Movement
Allow your head to move delicately upward. Notice where you feel any pressure on your hips or legs. you will feel no pressure or strain on your knees. As your knees bend. Make sure
. and allow your body to follow. Then straighten your legs and return to the standing position. (Fig. Bend both knees until they are directly above your big toe. When you are successful with this Action.) A common tendency is to think of the knees as moving downward. Your legs should continue to lengthen as your knees bend. make sure they bend directly above each foot. 1.Action 6 Knee-Bending
Stand with your feet a shoulder's width apart (from eight to eighteen inches). Notice what if anything you do with your head and your body. Instead. continue to follow your head upward with your body and without tightening your legs. keeping your body perpendicular to the ground. Are you bending at the hips and ankles? Repeat this until you are clear about how you are bending your knees. Include your legs in the easing so that they lengthen and lighten. Let your feet be as close to parallel as is comfortable. As you release the muscles around your knees. away from your body.
1. Release knees forward.
). rather. 2. but remains perpendicular to the ground. let your head and body ease upward from your legs and let your knees follow. 3.). (Fig. Keep your body sense alert so that you can tell if at any point you are tensing your knees. No need to tilt back.) Place a mirror at your side to monitor this movement. or forward if needless extra effort is used in bending your hips (Fig. No need to lean forward. Don't let your old habits interfere with your new way of bending. 1. it is part of the movement
THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE
.you release your hip joints so that your body does not tilt backward when your hips lock (Fig.
Applications to Daily Life
The simultaneous bending of both knees rarely occurs by itself in everyday activity. Rather than pushing your body back up with your legs.
The act of walking is greatly influenced by the amount of flexibility in the leg joints. and do the work with their legs as they should instead of their backs. Pulling down. Knee-bending is also the most efficient way of approaching any activity in which you are standing and must lean over to work. Working at a low counter. that movement is present even though their feet may be positioned differently. a freedom most people need. you will encounter a variation of it in the plié. Instead of going forward by bending your back and hunching your shoulders (Fig. doing dishes and ironing are examples of such activities. Easing upward. When people bend to pick up things. stay upright and bend your knees to lower yourself to the level you need. 5. 5. carpentry. knees bent. 4. If you're a dancer. (Fig.).
4. The greatest value of this Action is that it frees the hips and knees.of sitting and standing.
ACTION 7 Standing Up and Sitting Down
In Action 1, you learned how to lean forward without pushing forward. Now get up from a chair, noticing what your body must do in order to stand. When leaning forward in order to stand up, do you use more effort than when you merely lean forward in a chair? No more effort is actually needed. Now sit down from a standing position and notice what happens to the relationship of your head to your body. Do you freeze your head or any part of your body while you sit? Repeat these two Actions, noting everything that is involved in sitting and standing.
Applying the Basic Movement
Standing Up. Sit in a chair of average height. Begin by becoming aware of what you do with your head and your body. Turn your head from side to side and allow it to move up and away from your body. As you become aware of the
upward direction, lean forward by following your head with
your body. Continue following as you lean forward until your buttocks come off the chair. (Fig. 1.) As you lean forward, "upward" becomes diagonal from the chair, not skyward. As soon as your weight is on your feet, you have completed the movement.
1. Following your head upward.
STANDING UP AND SITTING DOWN 91
Sit back in the chair and repeat this movement several times, noticing what you do in order to come to your feet. Discover how to do the movement in one flowing motion with the least possible effort. Often people discover that they are giving a little push, a little tightening, just before they leave the chair. There are many people who at first feel that this little push is absolutely necessary but soon discover it isn't when they let their bodies follow their heads. Having made a slight improvement in the flow from sitting to getting your buttocks off the chair, go all the way to standing the next time you do it. "Upward" will continually change in relation to vertical as you fold forward. Notice whether you continue to follow your head or whether you change direction and push yourself up. (Fig. 2.) Beware of trying to swing yourself to your feet. (Fig. 3.) NOTE: When you stand, it is necessary to use your thigh muscles to some extent, so rather than concentrate on your legs, observe what you must do with your head and body to gain the most efficient use of your legs. After you have come to a standing position, your head continues upward and your body continues to follow it. There is no reason to abandon that upward direction and collapse after you have stood up. (Fig. 4.) Sitting Down. In the act of sitting, the advantage of following your head with your body is that you have control of your balance as you sit. An important idea to grasp about sitting down is that you must continue to follow your head upward with your body. If you let all your joints fold as you sit, and direct the energy upward to relieve pressure on the joints instead of tensing to keep from falling, you will not have to work as hard. As you stand in front of a chair, get your head and body going upward. As soon as you feel pressure taken off your legs, release your leg joints and let them fold. Remember to let your hips bend as well so that you lean forward as you approach the chair. (Fig. 5.) If this is confusing, stand up again, noting how far you fold forward as you stand. Sitting down is the same movement in reverse. 92 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE
STANDING UP AND SITTING DOWN
. Beware of pushing. Beware of swinging up.2.
THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE
. continue easing upward. Once standing.
STANDING UP AND SITTING DOWN
.5. Bending the joints to sit.
And you can do it without the extra effort of forcing or tensing your muscles. Most of us complete this action many times a day in an uncountable number of ways and positions. Whichever way it is done. straightening the joints and rebalancing the weight on the feet to stand. reach out with your arms or perform any other variation on the movement of standing. It is one of the best movements you can do to explore coordination of your whole body. knees and ankles.
96 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE
. They go through a sequence that resembles shifting gears in a 1950 pickup.Applications to Daily Life
Of the movements we repeat most often. many people divide the movement of standing into steps: lean forward. 2. it is all the same basic movement: bending at the hips. shoot up. though. you can avoid the shifts in direction and stand up in one easy flowing motion. How many people have you seen who push their knees down with their hands in trying to stand. push down. then folding into the chair to sit. Most people drop themselves into a chair and push themselves out. when they actually need their legs to go up? (Fig.) Without even thinking about it. one that uses the whole body is the movement from standing to sitting and vice versa. You will still have the flexibility to twist and turn your head. But if you can learn to follow your head with your body.
or outward. (Fig. Ideally. Plan to use this space whenever you want to do this activity. See if you can get your knees to fall inward rather than outward. There is one activity you can use daily to reinforce the process of lengthening in movement. Lie down with your feet flat on the floor and your knees bent. Putting your feet farther apart is helpful.A Short Daily Routine
A Time for Rest
The experiments you've been doing thus far have been designed to teach you conscious control of yourself. your knees will tend to fall toward each other. Lie down.
1. The point of it all is to teach you to let your head and body ease upward during any movement. spread-eagle fashion. your feet should be a shoulder's width apart and your knees balanced freely. 1. directly above your feet.) More realistically. Begin by finding a place that is comfortable. relatively quiet and can be used regularly.
If any of these positions creates undue pressure. then make minor adjustments. it will become easier to lie down this way. from "I have too many important things to do. As you learn to direct energy upward and to move with greater freedom. or bend them at the elbows and rest your hands comfortably on your stomach. When you have made a change in your belief system. Simply lie there for two to five minutes. though you'll soon be able to rest without one. short though it may be. Let your arms rest easily on the floor at your sides. but continue to make note of them each time.) As you lie there." to 98 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE
. write down the things you noticed during each session. warmer More than likely you'll notice the same things from day to day. on body maintenance. (When you are feeling extremely tense. and too many responsibilities. You may also be able to remember all these sensations. you may need up to twenty minutes. For example: Pressure across the back of my hips Tingling in my right knee Pain in my left upper back Sensation along the left side of my neck The floor is cold on my back My breathing moves my stomach The small of my back isn't touching the floor Feeling a little angry at first Cold fingers Felt calmer at the end. What is important here is that you have begun to spend a period every day. Afterward. for me to be spending time on myself. In that case you do not need to write your notes but can use your memory instead. make a mental note of your body's condition. so you can compare your awareness from one week to the next. A two-inch-thick pillow under your head is permissible.Let your feet rest parallel to each other on the floor and about two feet away from your buttocks. feet on the floor. Make yourself comfortable on your back. Keep your eyes open.
lift your hips up from the floor. You may. front and back. slowly lower your body until your hips are on the floor again. After you've taken this thoughtful rest for a few minutes. find that your body does begin to lengthen. let your head come to rest in a position where your neck. 2." you can give yourself the opportunity to improve your performance of any activity. Roll your hips up. chin toward your chest and then back tip from your chest. let your head move away from your body and let your body lengthen from buttocks to shoulders. Then starting at the middle back. With the back of your head touching the floor at all times. seems to have some length. front and back. (Fig. several times."time spent on myself is as important as any other time. Again. Do the same with your left shoulder. but because of friction with the floor you feel stuck at first. move your head by nodding it. the shoulder. With your feet firmly on the floor. 3. Lift your right shoulder toward the ceiling. You don't need to push your body into changing.)
2. 2. If that should happen. Let your shoulders widen and open. All the while you are doing this. move it slightly out from your body.
A SHORT DAILY ROUTINE
. do the following series of movements to allow your body to continue lengthening. will feel slightly longer. however. your head continues to move delicately away from your body. 1. The lift continues to the middle of the back. As you release it back to the floor. After nodding.
Pay attention to what you do with your head and body as you move your arm. Make sure you move your arm without a jolt or locking any part of it. Bend it and curve it any way you wish.) Then allow your lower arm to float up. (Fig. Be careful not to increase the pressure of your head against the floor. (Fig. bending your wrist (Fig. First let your hand float from the floor. There is no need to tense any part of your body to start the movement.
Rotating Your Head
See how easily you can rotate your head from side to side. Observe whether any other part of your body tightens or moves as you roll your head. Then slowly and gently move both arms in every which 100 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE
. Any movement can be done by letting your head ease upward and your body follow. Use the release of tension to move your head. Notice whether or not you press your head into the floor or lift it off the floor slightly to move your arm. rolling it from side to side.Now that you do not feel stuck to the floor.) Finally your upper arm can follow the floating movement and your whole arm will be above your body. as that begins to lengthen your neck. Find a way to move without jerking or setting (tensing) your body. roll your head from side to side. Continue to experiment with moving your head. All of the movements can be effortless. Let your other arm rise the same way. Permit your shoulders to continue easing outward from your body. 3. Move your head by letting it ease away from your body and. you're ready to experiment with some movements in the lying-down position.
Moving Your Arms
Lift your arms one at a time. 5.) Straighten your arm. following your hand and bending your elbow. Try doing fast movements with the least amount of tensing. Roll it from side to side a few times. beginning the movement by easing your head upward. Very gently lengthen out through your fingertips. 4.
Then the lower arm moves. 5. 4.3. Move your whole arm.
A SHORT DAILY ROUTINE
. First move your hand.
noticing where you tighten and observing whether or not you tense your head as you move your leg. continuing the movements of ease. (Fig. lengthen it toward your elbow. first allow your upper arm to come to the floor. As you let it down gently. Do this a couple of times with each leg.
THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE
.) Your knee will travel through a slight arc. (Fig. let your left foot slide along the floor away from your body until it is straightened and fully on the floor. Return always to the bent-knee position. Then place your foot on the floor again. As your leg moves away from your chest again.) Let your right leg straighten in the same manner. Lift one foot off the floor by bringing your leg toward your chest. finally.
Moving Your Legs
Next lift your legs one at a time. back and whole
6. your hand. Then let your lower arm follow and. allowing your head to move away from your body as your body follows. Bring your leg toward your chest. See what happens when you move your arms quickly and sharply. The object is to learn to move your legs with the least amount of tightening in your stomach. 6. 7. Now lift your left foot again and bring your leg toward your chest. Direct the energy up through your bent knee toward the ceiling. Whenever you let your arms return to the floor.way. Don't interfere with the freedom you've created in your head. body and arms. There's no need to push it away from your body.
9. Roll to the opposite side in the same manner. neck and torso. let your knees come to the floor. (Fig.body.
Rolling onto Your Side
Let your knees fall slowly and easily to one side. Allow the ease to continue in your head. Always let your head and neck be free. As you sit up.
To sit up from the lying position. Seated it's easy to stand simply by following your head with your body. let your head begin rolling toward the same side.) As your head continues to move. 8. Remember. let your head go outward from the top of your spine and permit your body to follow. it is essential to let your head continue moving instead of locking in place. To do this. one at a time. Draw your knees up again. while thinking of your legs lengthening outward through your knees. 9. Use the arm closer to the ceiling to push on the floor in front of your chest. The leg is straightened. your head doesn't necessarily have to be the highest part of your body as you stand. Now straighten up. (Fig. (Fig. causing your body to roll until you are lying on your side.
7. Let your head move away from your body and let your body move with it.) Then roll onto your back by moving your head first and letting your whole body follow. doing the same. If you want to bend over as you come up. roll onto your side.) Now you should be sitting.
A SHORT DAILY ROUTINE
Then let you legs straighten out and rest on the mattress as you continue to let your head move away and your body to follow it! If you must sleep on your side. The best way to sleep is on your back unless you have specific physical problems that prevent this position. a few adjustments will 104 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE
. or no pillow at all. 1. use the position of rest described above (Fig.8. Your knees roll to the floor. is better than a stiff or bouncy one. When you first lie down. Having a good soft pillow that forms to your head. 9. Let your head roll to the side.
Sometimes we do not get the full benefit of a good night's sleep because we continue so many of our habits of tension while we sleep.).
. 11. Bunch your pillow under the side of your head so that your neck is straight as it would be in standing. When rising from the bed in the morning. Cramped. avoid doing any movement. Then lay your top arm on the side of your body. 11. or at least rest the upper part of it on your upper side. 10. that can shock your body with exaggerated muscle action. but rests directly above the other shoulder with your chest and back unconstricted.). Lengthening.
make this position more advantageous.11. collapsing onto your chest (Fig. This way your upper shoulder does not curl down. A SHORT DAILY ROUTINE 105
. This will keep your body from collapsing onto the shoulder that rests on the mattress and will prevent your neck from cramping (Figs. If you slept on your back.10. such as a sit-up. and let it bend at the elbow.).
jaw and shoulders.
106 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE
. among others. This is not the same as trying to suppress anger. for example. By this procedure you can. inundated by it. Emotional Control—Worry. Panic
You can apply the Alexander Technique in your daily life so that your emotions do not get out of hand. Emotions are not the result of a conscious decision. Anger. wasteful or debilitating emotion will express itself in tensions that you can perceive even before you go haywire. Anger. for instance. The value of control can be seen if we recall for a moment the many unfortunate events in which we and those we love have been hurt by actions stemming from fear. even before you choke up or explode. Any harmful. then sit up gently as you ease your head and body up. which can tie you into knots or make matters worse. tenses muscles in the neck. do all your calisthenics after your body is more awake and your heart has adjusted its beat to a moving body. they arise subconsciously before the conscious mind can act. If you must do them in the morning. by releasing tension throughout your body. When you detect these signals. the new direction of your energy. gives you a means of coping with the emotion so that it remains a potential for action but does not interfere with rational decision and any action you may take.first roll onto your side. Rather. eliminate the panic from fear and size up the situation that inspires it and do something about it. anger or hostility. simply give some attention to easing your head upward and allowing your body to follow after it.
take careful note of the sketch that applies to you. and so we go about inventing them. As a teacher of the Alexander Technique. the problem involved and the answer to it. well and good. we manufacture unnecessary difficulties in the process of learning it. It can be eliminated as soon as you become aware of it. and it need not impede the smooth course of making the Alexander Technique your own. Following are some of the needless difficulties I have most often observed. It may be that you are not troubled in any of the ways described below. I have encountered many of the handicaps that people create for themselves at the beginning. The entire purpose of the sketches that follow is to provide a means for understanding and resolving any unnecessary problem you may recognize in yourself.Some Helpful Hints
You now have the simple program that will make an important change in how you function at every level of your daily life.
One of the most common tendencies seen in beginners is the "I can't" habit. If that is the case. These people focus on what they won't or 107
. But perhaps because the Alexander Technique is so easy to do. If so. These thumbnail portraits have been designed as a series of helpful hints for carrying out the Technique. But perhaps you may discover one or another obstacle with which you have been needlessly hampering your own progress in acquiring the Technique. Surely there have got to be complications. The reason may -be that it seems too good to be true: it can't be that simple.
As I stood there." The idea of the Alexander Technique is to pay attention to what you are doing. "Why not practice what you preach?" So I let my head move up and my body follow. I was in the kitchen one day. I began to notice a definite physical attitude that took over whenever I worked in the kitchen or performed other household chores. I suddenly thought. pulling my shoulders in. they give their bodies the instruction to follow their heads. In the process.
The Straining Housewife
One of my own experiences can best explain what is involved here. feeling very easy.can't do. it's not necessary to be in a state of continual regret when you feel you're in error." 108 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE
. When. I reasoned. they immediately ask themselves. Are you pulling down? Then go up. and began to press more lightly on the pot. "Am I doing it?" They notice that nothing is happening and then they think. In other words. I continued my experiment until the pot was clean and then I felt actually refreshed. There really is no need to be a "straining housewife. Don't worry about what you're not doing. Thinking about how you should be easing up is like making a plan to do the laundry instead of actually doing it. After that experience. guilt crept over me. I experimented with just how hard I needed to hold onto it. As I stood there. I realized I had been bent over. after spending an entire morning teaching the Technique and talking a lot about integrating relaxation into daily activity. Only by thinking during the activity was I able to avoid doing the excess work that made me feel I was doing the job right. It was still coming clean. for example. Every activity had a different but usually effortful physical attitude attached to it. This can't be right if it's making me feel good instead of strained and tired. feeling better and better. Still. I let my arm lengthen and hold onto the scrub brush very lightly. While scrubbing away furiously at a burned pot and considering all this. "I'm not doing it! I can't.
" I tell her: You have not quite understood what I mean by "thinking.
The under-achiever says: "Oh. the other hand on my shoulder. Direct your head to move upward and your body to follow with awareness. I can stretch my neck by putting one hand under my chin. How can words possibly make them go farther when you reach that limit?" What he has forgotten is that upward is a direction.The Thinker
She says: "I think and think about my head going up but nothing happens. well. When I take my hands off." It is not just the process of repeating the words or idea in your head. not a place.
He has deduced: "My head and body can only go so far upward before levitating is the next step. it takes so much energy to stay aware and remember to move 'Up. I can force . . you can't go around doing that and carry on your everyday activities. There is a maximum point of lengthening the spine. my head comes back down again. Thinking in these terms must be an active process that actually releases you from the downward pulls you ordinarily experience. But you can do some constructive thinking that carries over into every activity. This prevents the tendency to pull it downward. ." Obviously. and pushing my head up. But I can't keep hanging on that way.
"When I get a tension headache. not hands. but you can always continue to direct your head upward as you continue to move about. do it with my hands. Go past words to experiencing the idea.' I can't go around SOME HELPFUL HINTS 109
. Let it happen.
You won't have to summon the thought to move your head. your head can still move up away from your body but of course not toward the ceiling. Soon this awareness will become an integral part of everything you do. If you bend over. and when I'm sitting still and not doing anything. to move your head up. then "up" becomes relative to the movement you're doing." To the step-by-stepper I reply: See if you can ease up in order to make a move rather than easing up before you move. tense some muscles.
He says: "I ease up every time before I move. you're already moving. If you do this. Surely I have to do something. will be to learn to continue directing the energy upward during the movement.
110 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE
. I think about that immediate move and forget about easing up. it will be there. I can remember to think about it. The next step. to get forward in a chair. But as soon as I move.
He declares: "I know where up is. but I just look as though I'm being stiff and formal. At first you have to remind yourself to do something different—in this case. For example." Preventing the back-and-down pull is like breaking any other habit. so all you have to do is continue moving and you'll get to where you want to be. I go up with my head and let my body follow to reach with my arm in any direction. I think of any action as moving upward with my head and body. then.thinking about this all the time. That way change will come out of every activity you do and not as a result of something imposed on you. I have things to do. You still have to learn how to recognize your own movement without tensing or pulling down." When you're letting your head ease up and your body follow. and it's very hard to do two things at once.
and then I feel as though I shouldn't move or I'll lose it. I do ten minutes in the morning and ten after dinner. You yourself change from movement to movement as do the requirements of any activity in which you may be engaged." First. I try to think about "it all the time. stop practicing and start living! In studying the Alexander principle. So I don't turn my head. talking to a friend. I still feel just as tense after a long day at the office as I always did. When you get to the point where you refuse to change." Whenever you think you're doing something right. you tense up. The point of asking you to let your head ease upward and your body to follow is that you can get a little more flexibility and ease. you're easing up as soon as you think of it. The fact is.The Over-Achiever
He has the opposite problem from the under-achiever: "When I do what I think is easing up and maintain. probably without awareness. taking a shower. When you start allowing your head to ease upward and your body to follow while you
SOME HELPFUL HINTS 111
. Be satisfied with a little so that you notice the smaller changes more. let go of it.
She complains: "I go home and practice this Technique every day. I feel very uncomfortable and stiff. These are the things you do over and over again. hold it. What you do is make your head move up as far as possible. you've lost that flexibility. Maybe I'm practicing wrong. And when do you use yourself most? In all your everyday activities—eating. lock in and become inflexible. and I don't ever slouch in a chair. That's fine. you're trying to learn to use yourself better. but I don't seem to be making any change. I can really move forward and back in the chair very well. The change you can make yourself is very subtle. then when you get to the limit.
some muscles don't get used at all. it just makes for hard." You're making the wrong assumption if you think that simply putting forth energy will keep you in shape. not of posture and position. Won't I get flabby and out of shape if I stop exerting as much energy? Then I'll have to exercise twice as much. body. It's the way you use the energy that can be of help to your body. for example. And should my feet come down heel first or toe first?" There is no right place to put your head. Habitual tension doesn't keep you in shape. Then you're giving yourself a choice you never knew you had before—the choice of acting with or without tension. shoulders. in any movement you do. It just so happens that when you stop interfering with your body's natural functioning. The Alexander principle is a principle of movement. 112 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE
. notice and see if you can feel a little more ease. Then you're on the right track. You don't have to think during all activity.
Her reasonable question is: "You say that if I use the Alexander Technique I'll learn how to put less energy into doing everything.
She says: 'I can't seem to remember where to put my head to get back that floating feeling. locked muscle tissue.wash your hands. and usually they become a deposit area for flabby fat. When you learn to use your body as an integrated whole. in taking a step. Because of unnecessary tension in certain parts of your body. for example. chin or anything else. you stand up straighter. then you'll be putting what you've learned to use. But every once in a while. Go back to letting your head move upward and away from your body as your body follows. then you'll get the maximum use out of all your muscles. Where is it again? Sometimes I decide to pull my chin in and push my shoulders back but they never seem to stay. whatever you do.
and Edward Maisel. Ms. Texas. She has taught the Alexander Technique at several campuses. Barker consulted with Professor Raymond Dart. editor of Alexander's writings. among them Ohio University and Prescott College. world-famous anthropologist who discovered australopithecus and who is self-taught in the Alexander Technique. Barker is now teaching the Alexander Technique at Webster College in St. In preparing this book Ms. Frank Pierce Jones who conducted major scientific experiments on the Alexander Technique at Tufts University. Missouri. Louis.ABOUT THE AUTHOR SARAH BARKER received her master's in fine arts from Southern Methodist University in Dallas.